Women's College Research Institute

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Bridging the digital divide to close the cancer divide

Story from Impact, February 2014

In low-income countries like Bangladesh, women are rarely able to access comprehensive breast cancer care, and myths about cancer and gender inequity create barriers for seeking proper medical care if they have a breast symptom. However, a new program championed by Dr. Ophira Ginsburg, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, could change this.

Ginsburg recently led a randomized controlled population intervention trial in Khulna Division, Bangladesh, to see if community health workers (CHWs) guided by smart phones could encourage more women with breast symptoms to visit a clinic. 

“In four months, 30 CHWs conducted door-to-door interviews with over 22,000 women,” says Ginsburg. “Those guided by smart phone applications were more efficient and effective in promoting breast health and encouraging women with a breast symptom to go to a clinic, compared to CHWs without smart phones; those with additional training to address socio-cultural barriers to seeking care were even more successful.”

In November 2013, she presented the project at the African Organization for Research & Training in Cancer conference in South Africa. The study was published in The Oncologist.

Ginsburg is currently developing partnerships to expand the study in Bangladesh and is assisting a surgical oncologist in adapting the model for a peri-urban setting in Kenya.

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  • Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)