Access to cancer care: what do we need to do?

When the Union of International Cancer Control gathered in Cape Town this November, most of the time was dedicated to high-level policy discussions between world cancer leaders.

The first meeting served as a voice for cancer patients, opening conversations around access to cancer treatment. That voice urgently called for immediate fixes to a broken system that is not working for cancer patients – those who face the fire daily.

“We need governments, leaders, the policy makers, regulators, industry, healthcare practitioners and community health workers to work with us, to fight for every inch,” said Campaigning for Cancer, chairperson, Neil Kirby, calling for greater resources to be devoted to the battle against cancer. “In the past, there has been apathy, inflexibility, mutual suspicion, politics and egos at play – but this needs to end, because each one of these problems represent an inch lost and with it the life of a family member, a friend, a loved one or a child… our future.”

This is the culmination of a campaign run over the past month by Campaigning for Cancer which seeks solutions to address a disease tsunami that is causing deaths – unnecessary deaths – every day.  These deaths occur simply, because problems are not being adequately addressed and existing solutions are not being considered or applied. “An open mind to innovative solutions is not rocket science,” said Kirby. “We know what to do. We just need the will to do this.”

At the Voice of Cancer Forum, Access to Cancer Treatment in Low and Middle Income Countries – a regional perspective held on 18 November at the Mount Nelson Hotel:

• Dr. Gilberto Lopes from Brazil called for a global mechanism by which countries could co-ordinate procurement of affordable, quality drugs and technology.

• Pat Garcia-Gonzales from the Max Foundation presented techniques to use access programmes to train primary health care workers and provide innovative cancer therapies to patients worldwide, who could not ordinarily afford them.

• Campaigning for Cancer chairman, Neil Kirby presented a proposed legislative amendment to the National Health Act. These changes would allow for all South Africans to have equal access to a patient access programme that would not impact on current SEP (single exit pricing) and perverse incentive legislation.

Access to oncology treatment and care that is affordable is a key concern. Campaigning for Cancer has asked South Africans to come up with constructive, innovative and practical solutions to ensure that fewer cancer patients die unnecessary and painful deaths in future.

Adapted from a wwww.campaign4cancer.co.za article.

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