Teal project launched for PCOS awareness

INTERNATIONAL data suggests that polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects one in 10 women of childbearing age (womenshealth.gov).

#PCOS1in10Ja is social advocacy campaign kick-started in 2021, and was conceptualised to raise awareness about PCOS in innovative ways. It is a disorder affecting 10 per cent of women from teenage years to menopause, and leaves them at risk for developing many complications like diabetes, infertility and mood disorders.

The ultimate goal is to celebrate and empower women living with PCOS by exploring some of the common symptoms that come with PCOS. This year the campaign is launching The Teal Project, which is a photo/video series which profiles five women of different demographics and body types, allowing them to share their PCOS journeys and how they manage their symptoms while also increasing awareness of PCOS, and destigmatising symptoms typically ridiculed by society — weight gain, irregular periods, facial hair, infertility and mood disorders.

This year the campaign is spearheaded by Dr Kim Sommerville who holds a bachelor of medicine and has a background in internal and family medicine, and The Visual Advocate Jik-Rueben Pringle, who has over five years of using visuals to bring awareness to various issues. They are backed by a group of talented volunteers as well, who aim to uplift women with PCOS.

"We really wanted the 'cysterhood' to feel connected and that's the purpose of the teal scarf project, akin to the sisterhood of the travelling pants, where all these friends were living different lives in different countries but their friendship was connected using the pants. We want women living across Jamaica to know they are not alone, that no matter their skin colour, age, class or body type, they are not experiencing PCOS in isolation. There is a growing community of women stepping forward and sharing their stories and how they deal with their symptoms. Also through this campaign we are reinforcing for women and general practitioners to get more educated on identifying and treating PCOS. We are also promoting that women know the ins and out of their bodies and be aware of possible lifestyle changes they can make to alleviate their symptoms," shared Jik-Reuben.

A proper study has not been conducted on PCOS in Jamaica and as a result, there is no indicator of how many women within our population actually have been diagnosed. As a result of this, Dr Sommerville is conducting a small-scale local study, where she interviews 12 women with PCOS and 18 general practitioners. The goal is to understand their perspective on diagnosis and management of PCOS in Jamaica.

"I hope that this project will inspire an actual large-scale study to be undertaken by the Government or health research organisations in Jamaica," she shared. "As an online campaign, PCOS 1in10 Ja will feature a social media roll-out which includes Nutritional Tips Mondays — how to listen to your body and feel about your diagnosis; and PCOS WorkOut Reels and Instagram Live challenge with instructor JoHanna Taylor of #TaylorMade on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm. We will also be rolling out our video and photo features each week. We're also supporting Twitter Spaces hosted by#PCOSTalksJa."

The campaign will feature amazing Jamaican women such Darianne Mitchell, Giselle Johnson, Dr Nadia McLean, Shannel Foote and Georgia Jobson-Hamm. For more information on the campaign and to see its roll-out, check out @PCOS1in10Ja on Instagram.

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