BACKGROUND: Population-based screening for the common non-communicable diseases (NCD) is recommended but is difficult to implement in the hard-to-reach areas of low resourced countries. The objective of our pilot study was to evaluate the feasibility and the efficacy of delivering NCD screening services at home by trained community health workers (CHWs). Men and women aged 30-60 years residing in rural areas of India were targeted for screening.
METHODS: The CHWs made home visits to educate the participants about healthy lifestyles and symptoms of common cancers and counsel the tobacco/alcohol users to quit. They measured height, weight, blood pressure (BP) and random blood sugar for all and performed oral visual examination (OVE) to screen the tobacco/alcohol users for oral cancer. For cervical cancer screening, the women themselves provided self-collected vaginal samples that the CHWs delivered to the laboratory for high-risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV) detection. The women were not screened for breast cancer but were made aware of the common symptoms and the importance of early diagnosis. Further assessment of the screen-positive individuals and the women with breast symptoms was arranged at the nearest primary health center (PHC).
RESULTS: The CHWs screened 1998 men and 4997 women from 20 villages within 6 months; the refusal rate was less than 10%. High BP and sugar were detected in 32.6% and 7.5% participants respectively; hypertension and diabetes were confirmed in 42.3% and 35% respectively among those undergoing follow-up. Obesity prevalence was only 2.4%. More than 50% men were tobacco chewers. Of the total participants, 2.6% were positive on OVE, though no oral cancer was detected among them. HPV test was positive in 8.6% women and they were triaged with visual inspection after application of acetic acid (VIA) test for treatment either by thermal ablation (same visit) or by loop excision. VIA was positive in 14% of the HPV-positive women and 56.5% of them received same day ablative treatment. The VIA-negative women were advised follow up after 1 year. No breast cancer was detected among the 0.6% women complaining of breast symptoms.
CONCLUSIONS: Delivery of NCD screening services at home by trained CHWs is feasible and well-accepted by our study population.