Keeping Women Healthy in Coffee Producing Communities

Sixteen years ago on a trip to Mexico with a good friend, Dan Cox, the president of  a U.S. Coffee company, discovered an ever growing problem in many coffee producing countries: Cervical cancer.

Visiting with good friend and retired OB/GYN Dr. Francis Fote, he explained to Cox how the rate of women dying in these countries is the highest in the world, but is also one of the most preventable cancers when it’s caught early.

‘In coffee growing communities most women don’t have access for screening and treatment,’ said Jane Dale, Grounds For Health Development Director. ‘When Dan learned this he said it was unacceptable and that they needed to do something about it.’

Taking action, Cox and Fote set out to raise cervical cancer awareness and improve screening by servicing pap smear clinics in Mexico. This began the work of Grounds for Health and today it has grown in a number of other coffee cooperatives in other countries.

From its inception as a small service provider, Grounds for Health has now become a training organization to reach more women. Educating communities in the Single Visit Approach, it ‘has proven to be the most effective way to screen for and treat cervical cancer in low-resource environment,’ states GroundsforHealth.org.

The organization has also expanded from Mexico and is now running programs in Tanzania and Nicaragua, training their doctors, mid-wives, nurses and health providers on cervical cancer services and prevention.

‘In a low-tech technique, it’s a technique that is basically as simple as washing the cervix with household vinegar, waiting for three minutes and, if there are abnormal cells, you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye,’ said Dale. ‘Training is important because that’s where sustainability lies.’

Dale explains that women who have accessibility to screening and treatment at least once in their lives have a 30 percent less chance of dying from cancer.

Since 1996, Grounds for Health has screened over 16,000 women. Sharing the work of Grounds for Health with the coffee industry, Cox has created an organization that has been supported by almost 200 coffee companies since 1996.

‘We’re all about empowering these communities, giving them the skills and confidence to provide their communities forever,’ Dale said. ‘We still do screen and treatment but it’s all part of training now. The program has definitely evolved since it started. All the private funding from companies has made it possible for us to be responsive and nimble in changing and modifying the programs as conditions dictate in these areas.’

To learn more about Grounds for Health and to find out how to visit this organization’s mission, please visit www.groundsforhealth.org.

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