Two decades of rich experience in cancer control activities in the northern part of the State has schooled the Kannur-based Malabar Cancer Care Society (MCCS) to focus on students to rally them in its drive against tobacco, drugs and alcohol as part of its initiatives to create cancer awareness and provide cancer care facilities that have benefitted hundreds of people in the region.

The MCCS, which is one of the nodal agencies of the State government and a collaborative centre of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Population Fund and other agencies, is now planning to organise the Forums Against Tobacco, Drugs and Alcohol in schools and colleges with the participation of students. Each forum on the campuses will consist of 25 students who will be imparted basic training by the MCCS. The students will undertake awareness and action programmes in the community as well as their respective institutions to ensure effective implementation of the Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003.

The MCCS is launching this programme to create public awareness on the health hazards of tobacco products, drugs and alcohol in the community and also among students. The forums will be formed in selected 100 schools and colleges in the district. Each forum will be supervised by the head of the institution concerned and a teacher. The forum will have two students as convener and joint convener.

MCCS president D. Krishnanadha Pai said here that the activities of the forums would be carried out with the co-operation of the district administration. Forum members would also be given training in testing blood pressure and diabetes as the MCCS would provide them necessary equipment for these tests, Mr. Pai said adding that the objective was to initially turn the forum into model health forums.

The scheme for starting the forums also envisages presentation of awards to best forums and best teachers and students associated with the activities of the forums. In the second phase, the forums will conduct surveys covering students in the schools to free the campuses from the menace of tobacco, drugs and alcohol consumption in three months. It will be followed up by another survey covering parents to identify those addicted to tobacco, drugs or alcohol and persuade them to quit the habit through awareness. The activities will then be extended to entire villages.

District Collector Anand Singh has also urged the schools to form the forums and extend all support to their activities. Stressing that the use of drugs and alcohol is on the rise among the students, he said that the initiative of the MCCS in organising the forums is unique and will go a long way in providing effective health care delivery for rural population in addition to curbing the menace of tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

The MCC is already in the forefront of the campaign and initiatives to control cancer in the region. It is presently implementing Sanjeevani Mobile Telemedicine Project, the pilot project of the Ministry of Information Technology of the Government of India, for the benefit of rural population.

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