cancer

Togolese health hut. {Photo credit: S.Holtz/Peace Corps.}Photo credit: S.Holtz/Peace Corps.

The World Health Statistics 2012 report released this year reveals a mixed bag of amazing progress and underachievement.

The report --- the World Health Organization's (WHO) annual compilation of health-related data for its 194 Member States --- includes a summary of the progress made towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and associated targets.

Countries have achieved amazing success in some areas and little or no progress in others. Here are some highlights:

Three women gather outside a Tanzanian health center. {Photo credit: M. Paydos/MSH.}Photo credit: M. Paydos/MSH.

The 65th World Health Assembly is convening this week in Geneva, beginning May 21. For six days, the Assembly will focus the world’s attention on chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), universal health coverage, mental disorders, nutrition and adolescent pregnancy, among other health issues.

This is the second time in less than a year that chronic NCDs --- such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lung diseases --- are in the international spotlight. Last fall, the High Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases convened in New York, when, for only the second time in the history of the United Nations, a high level summit focused on a global health concern.

"On this World Cancer Day, we celebrate the remarkable progress in prevention, detection, care and treatment of cancer. Overall, treatment success has increased dramatically, with survival rates in high income countries like the U.S. now reaching over 90 percent for certain cancers such as breast, prostate, and testicular for patients with access to treatment. But this life-giving progress has yet to reach most of the world's people, who live in developing countries, where over half of new cases and nearly two thirds of all cancer deaths occur. Unforgivably, there is a huge "cancer divide" between rich and poor.

This year's World Cancer Day theme set by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) -- "together it is possible"-- calls on all individuals, organizations and governments to do their part to reduce premature deaths from cancers by 25 percent by 2025.

But there have been four myths that have held back cancer care and control in developing countries. On this World Cancer Day, let's start a global pink revolution to replace the myths with truths and the complacency with action."

Mildred Akinyi sitting by a family planning unit in Masafu sub-county, Uganda. Photo: MSH.

 

Post updated February 2, 2012.

Mildred Akinyi had abdominal pain for some time before she attended a reproductive health workshop for HIV positive couples at Masafu Hospital in Uganda in July 2011.

“I always felt pain in my abdomen, and would take a lot of panadols to ease the pain. I did not know what was wrong with me," Akinyi said. "When I heard from the case manager at Masafu hospital that STAR-E had organized for women living with HIV and their partners to be screened for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), I could not wait to use that chance to get checked.”

I am fortunate. I know this from years of experience of reporting about people who have poor or no access to quality health care, from rural areas of West Virginia to Afghanistan to Zambia. But today I feel this deeply, in large part because of an email that I just received.

Only one in twenty cancer patients in Africa receives needed chemotherapy. This is unacceptable. Much needs to be done, much can be done, and much must be done to close the cancer divide.

In June 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world, Do you think it's possible to create a unified social movement for NCDs, akin to the movements that already exist for individual chronic diseases?  If so, why?  If not, what initiatives can we implement in the place of an effective social movement to move an NCD agenda forward? Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was one of our four finalists.

For three years, Lucy Sakala has counseled people seeking HIV tests at a District Hospital in Malawi. A year ago, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She has had chemotherapy and surgery, which are sometimes painful and tiring, but are extending her life.

During the counseling sessions, she sometimes tells her patients about her illness: “I tell them they should live positively. There are several conditions more serious than HIV. I tell them I have cancer. It’s difficult, but I live positively."

The day before she said this, she had journeyed seven hours to the nearest city to see her doctor. He told her he had no more chemotherapy and she must buy it in a pharmacy. The cost was roughly $180. Insurance would only pay half.  The remaining half is a month’s salary, which she didn’t have.

Discovering MSH blog series graphicOver the next couple of months, as MSH celebrates it's 40th anniversary, reporter John Donnelly and photographer Dominic Chavez will be traveling to several countries to report on MSH’s work in the field. The stories will go into a book due out in the fall on MSH’s 40 years in global health. This blog entry is a post from the road, to give a flavor of their experiences with MSH staff.

Lucy Sakala at the Salima District Hospital in Salima, Malawi (© Dominic Chavez)

 

In March 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world: What should the key priority of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases be and why? We had a number of great submissions.  Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was one of our four finalists.  Read his entry below and look out in the days and weeks ahead for other finalist's blogs and another blog contest on NCDs. 

This was originally posted on smartglobalhealth.org.

The most common NCDs are diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and chronic lung diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 36 million people die each year due to NCDs, and a quarter of NCD deaths are of people aged under 60; 9 in 10 of these people are from developing countries. Breast cancer kills over 270,000 women in the developing world each year.

Political and social momentum has been building, as the United Nations High Level Meeting on NCDs approaches, for a change from emergency, disease specific responses to an integrated systems-strengthening response.

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