Why India’s oldest philanthropic organization is throwing its weight behind cancer awareness
Tata Trusts, one of India’s largest philanthropic organizations, is leading a first-of-its-kind category campaign to generate awareness of cancer symptoms and drive early diagnosis.
Earlier this year, Tata Trusts launched a first-ever campaign highlighting the uncertainty experienced by cancer patients and their caregivers - especially those from smaller towns and villages. The 'Kaise Ka Cancer' campaign aim was to highlight India’s growing cancer burden and promote awareness, accessibility, quality care and affordability.
Deepshikha Surendran, head of brand and marketing communications, Tata Trusts, tells The Drum why the organization has turned its attention to cancer.
India's fragile cancer ecosystem
In recent years, India’s cancer burden has witnessed a sharp incline, with the underlying cause being that around 70% of cancer cases are diagnosed at a very late stage. These late-stage diagnoses are resulting in high cancer mortality, estimated to be as high as 70%.
"This is in stark contrast with the developed countries, where the cancer mortality rate is less than 30%," says Surendran. It was clear the problem needed a different set of tools.
Tata Trusts has a long-standing involvement in cancer relief efforts after establishing the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai in 1941. Their most recent initiative to amplify cancer relief efforts was the Trusts’ Cancer Care Programme in 2017. Says Surendran, “The extensive cancer care resources and support that the Trust is giving to the patients, families, and caregivers, can broadly be divided into the buckets of screening and treatment support.”
Under screening support, Tata Trusts has partnered with local state and district health administrations to strengthen existing programs. Their community outreach teams undertake public awareness and screening programs, train frontline health workers, primary healthcare centers and health and wellness centers for early detection of common cancers, shares Surendran.
Under treatment support, Tata Trusts through its Cancer Care Programme, has supported the development of a network of hospitals providing high-quality affordable care to cancer patients closer to their homes and has plans to build on it even more, in the future, adds Surendran.
Driving behavior change
Thus, to raise awareness around the four key pillars that can help reduce this burden - awareness, accessibility, quality care and affordability, Tata Trusts launched #KaiseKaCancer campaign, its maiden national brand campaign around the dreaded disease and the ecosystem. Surendran says, “We took a digital-first approach to the campaign, with amplification across traditional media and support from our philanthropic community connections and activations.” The campaign was conceptualized by Rediffusion Brand Solutions and produced by Cutaway Films.
With the set of three films, the key message is “to help people overcome the fear that they have of cancer by assuring them of the availability of quality and affordable care closer to their homes.” An equally important call to action is to encourage people to pay attention to signs and symptoms and go in for regular screening so that early-stage diagnosis can be done and the disease can be treated well in time.
Deploying creativity to talk about the big ‘C’ disease
Cancer is possibly one of the scariest diseases and a lot of the associated fear has been created due to a lack of information about the disease, its impact etc, shares Surendran: “While we were creating this campaign, our objective was to address the significant cancer burden of India, and to do it sensitively.”
What we needed, says Surendran, was a very large umbrella thought that would appeal to everyone - without any urban-rural divide, or male-female restriction, it had to be something that would touch the hearts of every citizen. “The campaign had to deliver across segments, categories, and geographies and that was a big challenge”, she says.
The insight ‘kaise’ (or how) is a creative articulation of the questions faced by patients and their families when diagnosed with cancer, and the goal of the campaign is to trace this journey for patients, from ‘disease discovery’ to ‘disease recovery,’ she adds.
How Tata Trusts is walking the walk on cancer
Many years of work in the field around cancer told us that the lack of awareness of cancer symptoms primarily resulted in late detection and consequently poor survival rates, resulting in greater fear of the disease among the population, according to Surendran. It is a vicious cycle that gets propagated without being broken.
She says, “Making the right information and the right consultation available should not be a difficult choice – they are almost like basic rights.”
To help with the on-ground change as well, Tata Trust is investing in building and equipping government hospitals that are located in different parts of the country and helping with reskilling and upskilling the staff of these existing hospitals.
"For example, we intend to connect all the hospitals to the nerve center hospital run by the Trust and located in Tirupati, in Southern India which would help connect the patients to doctors for second opinions etc, thereby also helping in tackling the issue of geography-led access," shares Surendran.
“Unlike many other consumer-led categories, in the social sector, there is no competition - there is collaboration since the problems are often so big,” she says.