Thanks to the financial support from Czech Development Agency (CzechAid), Caritas Czech Republic has been conducting information campaigns on cancer prevention and early detection in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region since 2010. Initially, our organization provided medical examinations in the villages through a mobile clinic. However, for further medical services, locals had to travel to Tbilisi. In 2019, with the financial support from CzechAid, Caritas Czech Republic built Zugdidi Screening Center that enables the population of West Georgia to receive state screening services on the spot.
How the Community Mobilizers Change the Mindset of Locals
Before the establishment of the Zugdidi Screening Center, Caritas Czech Republic had been conducting information campaigns about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, cancer prevention, and early detection in every village of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. Project community mobilizers, in close cooperation with Cancer Prevention Center (CPC) and center Tanadgoma, have met hundreds of people and made a huge effort to convince them to be involved in preventive examinations.
As Nana Jibladze, a community mobilizer from the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region says, at first, the situation was quite complicated, because community mobilizers faced many challenges during such meetings:
"When we first started conducting meetings with the population, I was quite surprised as most of them, especially men, felt awkward when we talked about breast or cervical cancer. I remember the cases when some of them even left the meeting. And at the same time, women were also blushing. However, over the years, the situation has changed, people have not only started attending such meetings but started asking questions about cancer and relevant screening programs.
Unfortunately, bad precedents have always played a huge role in their engagement, so we often give examples of lethal cases to convince target audiences of the importance of cancer screening."
Noteworthy, community mobilizers have been always improving approaches for conducting information campaigns. According to Nana, to interest locals in prophylactic screening programs, recently the so-called role models were selected in each village. Community mobilizers are sure that the probability that those people’s opinions will be heard by locals, is high.
"This year, self-governments of the local municipalities of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region provide transportation for interested people. Thus, people can visit Zugdidi Screening Center and undergo screening examinations. This is an important involvement in facilitating the implementation of state screening programs and is the best precedent of cooperation for public healthcare," says Tamar Kurtanidze, Caritas Czech Republic’s project manager.
New Screening Center for West Georgia
Before the establishment of the Zugdidi Screening Center, the only option to receive full service of screening examinations and be diagnosed, was to travel to Tbilisi. Back then, a mobile clinic was arriving monthly to each village and provided some of the medical services on the spot. Hence, local women had an opportunity to consult a gynecologist and an oncologist and undergo mammographic and cervical examinations. However, that was not enough to be fully diagnosed.
As for many people travelling to the capital for receiving further examinations and full diagnosis was not an option, it was decided to establish a local screening center, which would provide Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and adjacent regions, including Abkhazia, with the access to state screening programs. Thus, with the financial support from CzechAid, in 2019, our organization built a modern, high-tech, and multi-profile outpatient medical facility.
Since its opening in November 2019, Zugdidi Screening Center provides state programs for breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening for the whole population of West Georgia. Except that, it also provides therapeutic, gynecological, endocrinological, and other types of examinations and tests. After two years, more than 7 000 locals have already benefited from these medical services.
The center is staffed with highly qualified medical personnel, whose continuous education and professional development are constantly taken care of by both Caritas Czech Republic and the center's management. To ensure quality medical services, during this period, our organization has been providing the center’s personnel with various professional trainings.
Mariza Agumava, a resident of the Zugdidi Municipality, received breast cancer screening service in summer 2021. She notes that despite her initial fears, she was surprised that the region has a medical facility with such modern equipment and highly qualified medical staff:
"I was infected with the COVID-19 and at some stage, the doctor suggested to be examined on the computer tomography. It turned out that I had already recovered from the virus but unfortunately, the radiologist informed me that I had several nodules in my breast. Then, the therapist referred me to the Zugdidi Screening Center. I consulted an oncologist, mammologist, and gynecologist, and received a screening service. I was very pleased that I had to pay absolutely nothing for those medical services. Of course, that was a huge relief in my situation."
CzechAid’s Invaluable Support for West Georgia
The project Establishment and Promotion of Cancer Screening Center in Zugdidi was funded by Czech Development Agency and has been carried out by Caritas Czech Republic, in close cooperation with Cancer Prevention Center (CPC) and center Tanadgoma. The main achievement of this project is that now the center is implementing national screening programs (breast, cervical, colorectal cancer screening and prostate cancer program) through National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) that provides screening services funded by the Government of Georgia.
Prepared by Nina Kopaleishvili – PR and Communication Officer, CCRG firstname.lastname@example.org