Is Cancer In Poor Countries Too Big To Tackle?

If you think of global health as Mount Everest, cancer control would be a small flag at its peak.

AsianScientist (Sep. 29, 2016) – by Anita Makri – A revealing metaphor kicked off a day of discussions about tackling cancer in poor countries at the Royal Society of Medicine on September 21, 2016.

If you think of global health as Mount Everest, cancer control would be a small flag at its peak, said Richard Sullivan, professor at the King’s Health Partners science center in London, UK. The statement was meant to symbolize how systems to tackle cancer are built on a vast set of capabilities, from complex infrastructure to technological capacity to end-of-life care.

The rest of his presentation, and the discussions that followed, backed this up. They touched on issues from power and development goals to data gaps and the private sector to radiography, pain management, health insurance and gender.

The metaphor is revealing in the level of challenge and ambition it conveys, which could explain why cancer is rarely a main feature of policy discussions around global health and development—a complaint that, rather unsurprisingly, came up more than once in the course of the day.

This is despite statistics showing that 87 percent of people in low- and middle-income countries aren’t covered by a cancer health plan. Many of these countries also struggle with other common and emerging diseases, and have weak health systems.

There’s been little support for cancer in development aid, said Ms. Julie Torode, deputy CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control—partly because the Millennium Development Goals make no mention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). But this is changing with the 2030 agenda, she added: NCDs feature across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Still, the changes needed to work towards the SDGs will take a revolution, said Sullivan. Development has a huge impact on social determinants of cancer control, and estimates of the billions of dollars needed to follow global policy agendas feed the policy inertia. NEXT PAGE >>>

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