Tobacco and dietary factors constitute two thirds of the risk factors and over a period of 2 – 3 decades cause cancers. What begins in childhood manifests as cancers in middle and old ages! In the year 2008 we decided that our talks to children in school would not restrict to dangers of tobacco use but also include obesity and lack of exercise.
A new presentation was made which included the basic biology of cancer, ill effects of tobacco and role of diet and exercise in cancer and ways & means to prevent cancer in them and their folks. Each year the presentation contained a popular event, person or film which the children could immediately relate to. For example the film , Jungle Book , was used to explain the biology of cancer this year, last year it was Kaaka Muttai , and the year before it was Malala.
The cancer Free tomorrow campaign began in June 2008 and covered 45 – 80 schools each year in Chennai, Mumbai & Coimbatore put together. This year, 2016, we have already covered 69 schools reaching 24000 plus students and over the years this score has reached over 600 schools covering several lakh students. In some years this campaign continued in other towns & cities also.
The response is simply superb ! The sparkle in the children’s eyes saying convincingly that they understood the stuff, the roaring yes to shoo off a smoker or the chorus consent to say no to chips packet for the school lunch says all that is needed. Finally when the speaker gets to leave a long line of students awaits him/ her to shake hands to say thanks! What more ….
World Cancer Day – Paint contest
In a measure to emphasize the need to make tomorrow cancer free, a paint contest is organized to mark the World Cancer day , 4th February. It is held at Chennai, Coimbatore & Mumbai on the nearest Sunday to 4th Feb. Each school is permitted to send 9 entries, 3 in each , primary , middle school & Secondary . The theme is Cancer Free Tomorrow but each year a specific aspect is also chosen. This year it was : clean air to make cancer free “ the last year ,eat “right” to prevent cancer .
There is good response to this on the spot poster painting contest at all three cities. The contest is judged by a panel of famous painters & cartoonists and this year onwards we have also included an environmentalist in the panel. While the children paint their parents are given a talk about aspects in cancer prevention. And before & after the paint contest reinforcements are given on the ways & means to make tomorrow cancer free. 20 – 60 schools , depending upon the city, send children to this contest.