Cervical cancer is a critical public health issue in India, which has one of the world’s highest incidence rates and ranking as the second-most common cancer affecting women in the country. It leads to over 67,000 deaths annually, claiming a woman’s life every 8 minutes. Limited access to screening, a shortage of healthcare resources, and a lack of awareness regarding preventive measures, particularly among women from marginalised communities, are some of the factors leading to this alarming situation.
Recognising the urgency of addressing this issue, ACT For Health has been supporting Periwinkle Technologies, a medtech startup that is on a mission to make India cervical cancer-free. Their innovative solution, the Smart Scope® CX, is an AI-powered handheld point-of-care digital device that enables health workers to detect cervical cancer at an early stage. This device serves as a single-visit alternative to traditional methods like pap smear and colposcopy, which are fraught with issues such as high dependence on trained professionals, cost-intensive infrastructure requirements, and lengthy turnaround times.
In stark contrast, the Smart Scope® CX efficiently captures images of the cervix and eliminates the need for electricity, space, or additional infrastructure. Its built-in AI component analyses these images to deliver results within 10-15 minutes and significantly reduces the dependence on trained professionals. The device can be easily used by healthcare workers at the last mile and allows for remote triaging of the results by experts. The Smart Scope® CX enables early detection of cervical cancer, reducing the morbidity and high mortality caused by late-stage diagnosis and propels significant technological advancements in addressing critical gaps in public health systems.
Over the last year, Periwinkle has demonstrated the efficacy of its solution by successfully screening over 1500 women in Chattisgarh. These early pilots helped validate the effectiveness of Periwinkle’s solution and provided learnings on how this can be deployed in public health settings.
ACT For Health is excited to renew its support for Periwinkle through a follow-on scale-up grant. The aim is to build on the learnings from earlier pilots by conducting on-ground cervical cancer screening in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) across both rural and urban settings across multiple states in India. The objective is to showcase the benefits of using Periwinkle’s Smart Scope® CX device in public health settings, esp. PHCs, and achieve scalability within the public health system. This grant will play a pivotal role in expanding Periwinkle’s deployments in Maharashtra, Manipur, and Jharkhand in collaboration with ACT For Health’s implementation partners to unlock state-wide takeup within the public health system.