By Hassan Zaggi
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that in order to strengthen cancer services, capacity-building is needed of health workers at the district level, along with implementation of a comprehensive surveillance system, and investment in digital innovations to improve cancer care.
It also advised countries to integrate cancer services including pain relief, and other benefit packages in social insurance schemes.
The WHO Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, gave the advice in a message to commemorate the year 2021 World Cancer Day.
World Cancer Day is commemorated every February 4.
According to the WHO Regional Director, “looking ahead, the rising cancer burden will place additional pressures on resource-constrained health systems and on patients and their families who incur catastrophic costs to access services.
“As countries work towards achieving universal health coverage with WHO’s support, provision of cancer services, including pain relief, should be integrated in benefits packages and social insurance schemes.”
Moeti further reiterated that: “To strengthen cancer services, capacity-building is needed of health workers at the district level, along with implementation of a comprehensive surveillance system, and investment in digital innovations to improve cancer care.
“We all have a role to play in reducing stigma around cancer, improving understanding of this disease and encouraging people to seek early screening and care.”
She lamented that in many communities in African countries, people have limited access to cancer screening and early detection, diagnosis and treatment.
“For example, only about 30% of African children diagnosed with cancer survive, compared to 80% of children in high-income economies. Challenges in access to cancer care are further compounded in times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“The African Region also bears the highest burden of cervical cancer among WHO regions, and so the World Health Assembly’s adoption in 2020 of the Global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem was of key relevance to African countries,” she said.
The WHO Director further called for increase in the introduction of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in order to prevent cervical cancer.