The role of patients in times of peace and crisis, from self-empowerment to social mobilization
The role of patients in the healthcare system is vital yet often downplayed. Hon. Yuthar Mohammed AlRawahy, Founder & Honorary Life President of the Oman Cancer Association (OCA), is a four-time cancer survivor and through her self-empowerment, she managed to mobilize the Omani community and enact a staggering evolution in the areas of cancer awareness, advocacy, screening and palliation. This success has positively impacted not only her locality but the regional and global institutions in this dynamic space: the space that bridges social activism with healthcare provision and creates endless opportunities for public-private-civil partnership.
At the World Hospital Congress in November, Yuthar will be addressing her condition as a patient immediately post-cancer diagnosis, at the age of 47 years, of a disease that was still taboo in Oman. She does not handle the shock in any exceptional way however her decision to face the challenge head on and not wallow in self-pity gives rise to a movement that has gone on to serve thousands of patients and their families going through similar experiences and inspire thousands more. It is easier said than done, but she considers herself as living proof, that it can be done.
Yuthar will explain the genesis of what is today the Oman Cancer Association. A now 19-year-old non-governmental, non-for-profit, umbrella charity organization whose mission is to prevent and control cancers through awareness and improve the quality of life of cancer patients, survivors, their families and the community at large. She will share about founding the association, becoming a civil society pioneer, galvanizing support and educating herself on what is needed, and where, in order to affect change. She worked very closely with the budding oncology centres across Oman’s hospitals to understand their challenges and ultimately work towards realizing four landmark projects, outside of the numerous other initiatives and events that feature awareness, education, training and research:
- Mobile Mammography Unit (MMU) to serve the ladies over 40 years of age for free breast cancer screening, that goes around the whole of Oman twice a year. This is used as an awareness tool for breast cancer in particular but spreading information for all cancers. Advising the community the importance of repeated regular examination that gives early diagnosis and cure. Launched in 2009 and so far has screened over 22,000 ladies. This project has reduced the waiting time for patients to be seen tremendously.
- Dar Al Hanan (Home Away from Home) for children with cancers and their families living outside the capital area needing outpatient protocols by affording them free accommodation, meals and shuttle bus for their treatment in the hospitals.
- A comprehensive, holistic training program with certification to 360 local nurses and 22 primary healthcare physicians, and 70 religious scholars plus 45 nurses and 9 doctors from LMIC and regional countries with civil strife. 55 of the group were certified as trainers.
- The soon to be commissioned unique project, known as “Bridging The Gap” that will provide free outpatients rehabilitation service to terminally ill stabilized cancer patients and a member of their family so as to allow them to live comfortably and with their dignity with their patients at home.
These sustainable initiatives have all come about through tireless fundraising and careful respectful navigation of cultural norms, government regulations and general medical protocols that aim to protect first and foremost the most vulnerable variable in these equations: the patients themselves.
Her example and accomplishments are impressive enough but it’s a story that continues to unfold – the Association that started in the Founder’s sitting room is to host the UICC 2020 world cancer Leaders Summit and World Cancer Congress. Oman would be the first country in the region to be the host of this prestigious and highly acclaimed gathering of experts and exhibitors.
The socio-economic impact of OCA’s achievements over a span of under 2 decades, under the leadership of a dedicated persistent champion of progress, epitomizes the pivotal role patients can play – if empowered to do so – in transforming care and creating patient-centric mandates across the spectrum of awareness and care facilities.