Bollywood-style song inspires U.K. women to get mammograms

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If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch a Bollywood movie -- one of the hundreds of over-the-top Hindi musicals churned out by the Indian film industry each year-- then you cannot help but have noticed the abundance of breasts. Generally speaking, these high-octane film spectacles feature comely young heroines either frolicking around in skimpy attire or heaving their bosoms in fright/anxiety/excitement.

Now a U.K.-based health services organization has put a proactive spin on the connection between Bollywood and bosoms. The Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust (HOBTPCT) has produced a series of public-service videos, set to the tune of an old Bollywood hit song, in a campaign to encourage South Asian women to undergo regular breast cancer screening, as well as cervical cancer screening.

The pieces are done in English, Urdu, and Bengali, and are targeted especially to Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in the Birmingham area -- two groups that have dismal screening compliance rates because of cultural, language, and religious barriers.

"This the result of a report identifying key barriers to accessing cancer screening services," explained Shaireen Chaudhry, project manager for breast and cervical cancer screening at HOBTPCT. "Barriers (include) the inability of Pakistani and Bangladeshi (women) to communicate effectively in their mother tongue with health practitioners...."

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A poster for the 1960 film Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai.

Available in DVD, VHS, and audio formats, the spots have aired in health centers and doctors' offices, and have proved to be wildly popular with their audiences. The vignette features a woman in South Asian garb, entering the clinic and going through the screening process, while a reworked version of the popular Hindi film song plays in the background.

Rather than paying homage to a modern film, the group decided to go old school and chose a tune from a 1960 black-and-white classic called Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, which roughly translates to "the land where the Ganges River flows." The movie’s storyline chronicles the life of a pure-minded boy, who just happens to have healing powers thanks to his connection with the river, who falls in love with a girl from the wrong side of the banks. The specific song that was reworked is "Hothon Re Sachayi Rehti Hai," an ode to telling the truth -- in this case, the benefits of undergoing annual cancer screening.

The movie and song were chosen because it would be instantly familiar to women in the appropriate screening age group, Chaudhry said. A professional crew filmed the spots, which were shot in black-and-white over a two-month period, at a cost of about £10,000 (a little over $5,000), according to Chaudhry.

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Color stills from the screening awareness PSA, which starts with Punjabi musicians putting on a show. A South Asian woman enters a clinic and is led to her exam by clinic staff. Images courtesy of HOBTPCT.

"As the launch was on a national level, 100 copies of the video, 500 copies of the DVD, (and) 500 copies of audio tapes and leaflets were produced in Bengali, Urdu, and English. However, requests for further copies are continuous," she said.

Thus far, reaction to the segments has been very positive, she added. "This is a tune that is easily remembered and women who have seen the video are already humming the tune and appreciate the lyrics. The tune encourages women to listen. Barriers are being broken...and as a result, they are accessing the screening services," she explained. Chaudhry’s office has fielded requests for copies of the public-service announcements from other U.K. health organizations as well.

The HOBTPCT is currently in the process of collecting data on how the campaign has impacted breast cancer screening compliance rates. Anecdotally, Chaudhry tells of one practice that saw 26 out of 35 women show up for their mammography appointments, all of whom cited the video as instrumental in their decision to go through with the exam.

By Shalmali Pal staff writer
February 10, 2004

Related Reading

Racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes spark research, October 10, 2003

Chinese women respond best to doctors' breast cancer screening advice, February 19, 2003

Non-whites in U.S. at greater risk for advanced breast cancer, January 14, 2003

'Western' risk factors for breast cancer do not seem to hold in India, June 12, 2002

Breast cancer rates for Asian-American women climb, June 12, 2002

Grassroots groups address high breast cancer rate among immigrants, March 30, 2001

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