By: Lizi Jones
A handful of clever, caffeinated Americans have put into action the coffee-addict’s daily mantra: coffee can, in fact, help save the world. [ Grounds for Health
] is a women’s health organization focused on engaging coffee consumers, companies, and cooperatives around the world in a collective battle against the highly preventable, yet rampant-in-the-developing-world, blight of cervical cancer.
This wouldn’t be the first time coffee companies have striven to couple the reliability of a caffeine-addicted consumer base with public service: both chains and independent shops have shifted in recent years to focus on offering [ fair trade brands
], donate portions of [ proceeds to local organizations
], and pass on a message of global concern for its customers.
Grounds for Health, established in 1996 by a coffee man—Dan Cox, owner and president of [ Coffee Enterprises
]—and a maternal health one—Dr. Francis Fote, a retired OB/GYN—follows this line of thinking one step further. Having taken stock of the problem of cervical cancer around the world, the two targeted the coffee industry expressly for this match. There is no direct causal relationship between coffee-growing and cervical cancer, [ as numerous research sources assure
], but nevertheless a correlation exists between cervical cancer prevalence and the production of coffee beans. On one side of the bean, the coffee industry has an incredibly broad, reliable consumer audience; on the other, an enormous provider population in profound poverty and dire need of focused medical efforts.
The troubling paradox lies in the detectable and exceedingly preventable nature of this cancer. “Cervical cancer is one of the easiest cancers to detect, treat, and cure when caught early,” explains GFH. In a [ single-visit procedure
], women can be screened, assessed, and treated with low-tech, inexpensive, and immediate results.
The high prevalence of cervical cancer in these regions, thus, comes purely from lack of access. This means, as [ Dr. Atara Ntekim of Nigeria
] writes, that “worldwide, women of low socio-economic status have a greater risk of having cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is often referred to as a disease of poverty and of poor women.”
Coffee-growing nations are almost exclusively low-income ones; in developing nations, cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death. GFH cites that [ over 80% of women newly diagnosed with cervical cancer
] live in low-income, predominantly sub-Saharan, and—you guessed it—coffee-growing nations.
GFH’s goal is to improve that access. Its pairs [coffee companies](http://www.groundsforhealth.org/supporters/) including Green Mountain Coffee, Caribou Coffee, Royal Coffee, and myriad others, with [ coffee cooperatives
] in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Tanzania, in a partnership designed to help develop, build, and maintain cervical cancer prevention programs in rural communities. Through the help of its affiliates, Grounds for Health provides the resources and expertise for cervical cancer screening, while its partner co-ops deliver the education and community assistance (like transport to a clinic and childcare) necessary to enable and improve each woman’s access to screening.
Here’s to coffee and its people helping the world, one cup at a time. As if we needed another incentive for our morning Cup o’ Jane!
More on Screening and Prevention of Cervical Cancer: