of us in the coffee industry are aware of the dire financial situation
in which many coffee farmers find themselves today, but we may not
realize how this desperate poverty translates into lack of access
to the kinds of services that we take for granted. Let's take the
case of cervical cancer. It's not something we think about very
much, probably because we know very few people who have had it and
even fewer who have died from it. But this is not the case in Mexico,
especially for the millions of women who depend on coffee farming
for their livelihood.
In 1992, Mexico
recorded the highest mortality rate for cervical cancer in the world,
five times higher than the rate among white women in the US during
the same year  . Even in this new millennium,
the mortality rate remains steady: during the time that you are
at work today, four women will die of cervical-uterine cancer in
Mexico alone  .
is this easily preventable cancer killing so many women in Mexico?
The main reasons are lack of awareness about cervical cancer and
lack of access to quality screening. Grounds for Health (GFH) is
a non-profit organization created to bridge the gap between available
medical services and the needy coffee-farming population that they
serve. It was founded by Dan Cox, the president of Coffee Enterprises
in Burlington, VT, when he and family friend Dr. Francis Fote found
out about the high mortality rate from cervical cancer while on
a coffee buying trip to Pochutla, Oaxaca in 1996.
project started by sending small teams of American volunteers to
Pochutla to do Pap smears. The Pap smear slides were sent for interpretation
to the state laboratories in Oaxaca City, an eight to ten hour truck
ride from Pochutla, but the state system was fraught with problems.
Too often, results were never returned and, when they were, the
diagnoses were questionable. In 1998, Jon Wettstein of Green Mountain
Coffee Roasters became involved in the project and connected GFH
with the Cytopathology Department at Fletcher Allen Hospital in
cytopathologists to the team of volunteers allowed the project to
interpret the Pap smear slides on site and deliver the results to
the patients within the week. With the assistance of Gyné-Tech
Instrument Corporation and Ben and Jerry's Homemade, the project
was able to donate more than $25,000 worth of diagnostic and treatment
equipment, allowing the Pochutla hospital to set up a clinic where
women with pre-cancerous conditions could receive treatment, the
first of its kind in the region.
September 2000, the project became an official non-profit organization,
Grounds for Health, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Kiko Malin was hired
as the executive director and the project continued to grow. In
October of 2000, GFH began offering services in Huatusco, Veracruz,
an important coffee-producing city in that state. Over 350 women
attended the initial two-day clinic and when the team returned in
March, almost 1100 women were screened in a week—an all time
high for the project.
to Grounds for Health, women in two coffee-growing communities now
have access to high-quality cervical cancer screening. To date,
the project has served more than 4000 women, and has referred hundreds
of them for potentially life-saving treatment. Most importantly,
GFH makes these hard-working women feel that they are a priority,
and that is a great gift.
for Health will continue to expand its services by improving health
education programs and working with the local agencies and coffee
co-ops to develop a community-based mechanism for tracking and follow-up
of patients. It is only with the commitment of its many volunteers,
both American and Mexican, that GFH will succeed in accomplishing
this goal. By working closely with the community and mobilizing
highly trained American medical professionals GFH is helping the
local people to help themselves.
for Health is now raising money for its November trip. The founders
and sponsors of GFH are proud of the contribution that they are
making to the women whose hard labor makes our businesses possible,
and whose needs are so often overlooked. They hope that others in
the industry share their vision and will join them in supporting
this important cause. To learn more about becoming a GFH sponsor
or volunteer, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please contact
Kiko Malin at 1-800-375-3398 or write to email@example.com.
for Health is a 501(c)(3) organization