Following initial meetings in June 2011, South Africa’s Cancer NGOs have unified with one voice, calling on all stakeholders to join together to address vital issues regarding quality of and access to cancer care in South Africa. The formation of the Cancer Alliance stemmed from several stakeholder meetings held over two years, the last being the “Voice of Cancer” Survivor Forum held in May 2011, in Cape Town.

The Cancer Alliance is a collective group of 20 legally incorporated cancer control non-governmental organisations (NGOs), representing approximately 80% of NGOs engaged in advocacy and support for South Africa’s cancer patients, as well as two individual advocates. The purpose of the Cancer Alliance is to be a platform of collaboration for cancer civil society to speak with one voice, addressing the challenges faced by cancer patients. Members agree to work together in terms of agreed principles and initiatives that are of common interest and where collectivism would enable greater leverage of members’ resources and ensure greater effectiveness.

It is important to note that all member organisations will continue with their own mandated work in the field of cancer control and that the Cancer Alliance is not designed to replace the work of any one organisation

The Cancer Alliance is calling for all key stakeholders, including government, industry, patients and health professionals, to work together to identify appropriate  solutions to improve each aspect of cancer care available and provided to all South Africans, in line with the Bill of Rights.

“Quality and access to cancer care in South Africa is improving, but varies widely by region, and between provinces, hospitals, the state and private sectors,” said Linda Greeff, founder of People Living with Cancer. “There is an urgent need to improve access to screening, timely diagnosis, support care, and access to treatment via radiotherapy, surgery and medications. The challenge is vast, and it is critical that we engage the contributions and creativity of all key stakeholders to improve care and outcomes for cancer patients.”

Achieving consensus on priorities and solutions

All parties who care about cancer patients agree that achieving better and more consistent access to cancer care is the main objective. The key questions, then, are:

1. What are the top priorities and the issues that have the greatest impact on patients’ lives and health outcomes?

2. What are the best ways to ensure expanded access to quality cancer care for all South Africans?

“We must call all hands on deck to meet the challenge of improving cancer care,” said Dr Devan Moodley, a medical oncologist at Wits Oncology in Johannesburg, and Medical Director of Campaigning for Cancer. “I want my patients to have confidence that they have the best chance possible to fight their illness and win.”

“The problems are not simple, and neither will the solutions be,” said Salome Meyer, Independent Cancer Advocate “But we have access in this country to advanced medical technology, as well as the skills, expertise and good will of motivated stakeholders. The Cancer Alliance is confident that, working together, we can agree on the best ways to accelerate progress, expand access, and inspire new hope for patients affected by cancer today and in the future.”

What the Cancer Alliance aims to achieve

The Alliance seeks to be a powerful tool to effect change for all South Africans affected by cancer.  The Alliance will act as a watchful eye on strategies and policies that ensure the significant reduction of South Africa’s cancer burden and improved access to care for all cancer patients.

The Cancer Alliance will achieve this through the publication of position statements/papers and baseline papers as well as public messaging relating to such publications. This will be strengthened with focused advocacy and lobbying activities with relevant stakeholders regarding issues faced by all South Africa’s cancer patients.

The members of the Cancer Alliance include; Members: amaBele Belles, AORTIC (African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer), Brain Tumour Foundation SA, Breast Health Foundation, Cause Marketing Fundraisers, Campaigning for Cancer, Can-Sir, Cancer Buddies, CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA, Hospice Palliative Care Association SA, IGAZI Foundation, Journey of Hope, Look Good Feel Better, National Council Against Smoking, National Kidney Foundation of South Africa, People Living With Cancer, Reach for Recovery, Sinomusanothando Community Development, The Sunflower Fund, The Vrede Foundation, S.J. Meyer and C.C. Green.

Adapted from a article.