Engaging religious leaders and social influencers for advancing tobacco control and screening among masses visiting Kumbh Mela
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Tata Trusts, Mumbai, India
Publication date: 2021-09-02
Corresponding author
Kunal Oswal   

Tata Trusts, Bombay House, 24 Homi Mody Street, 400 001, Mumbai, India
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2021;19(Suppl 1):A15
Kumbh Mela (festival of a sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology. It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world. The Mela draws tens of millions of pilgrims over approximately 48 days to bathe at the sacred confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati. Government, NGOs, Ashrams, Private Doctors, Private Hospitals and charitable trusts have their medical camps and hospitals in the Mela area to provide healthcare facilities and engage in health promotion activity

The primary objective was to utilize the setting to integrate tobacco control messages through religious leaders and social influences. Another objective was to utilize the gathering for screening of oral cancer in high risk groups.

It was decided to collaborate with major akhadas engage them in awareness & prevention program. Religious leaders in akhadas were sensitized to communicate the message for adopting a healthy lifestyle and restraining from any habits in their discourse and undertake screening. A 2 minutes pledge was played at each akhada and painting on the roads to spread awareness.

64 LED displays carried the message of tobacco control, oral cancer and prevention strategy. Main religious leaders encouraged their followers to restrain from any habit and adopt a healthy lifestyle . These messages would easily reach to millions during the Mela. 10 temporary screening clinics, screened the high risk group for oral cancer, diabetes and hypertension. About 10,000 people were screened and a significant proportion (50%) were found to have a premalignant lesion. They were referred to the tertiary care facility.

This study demonstrates that Kumbh Mela presents an opportunity to communicate the message to millions of people and screen a large number of high-risk individuals from a geographically diverse area . Religious leaders and social influencers play a vital role in advancing key health priorities in India.

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