Global health experts, in the October 2 issue of The Lancet, have called for a comprehensive cancer control mechanism on the scale of the existing measures to combat HIV and tuberculosis in low and middle income countries.
The team that contributed to the policy recommendation in the journal, including K.Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India, has said, “the time has come to challenge and disprove the widespread assumption that cancer will remain untreated in poor countries.”
They have stated that this would require a renewed global effort to expand cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and palliation in these nations. “Achievement of this aim will require additional resources that can be derived from innovative global, regional, and national financing and procurement mechanisms,” according to the paper.
Extension of cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment to millions of people with or at risk of cancer is an urgent health and ethical priority, they have stated.
The authors have advocated a three-pronged strategy to make cancer care and control available as fast as possible.
Firstly, there is a need to simultaneously implement “large-scale demonstration programmes in the next few years to define and build new infrastructure, train health professionals and paraprofessionals, and harness the opportunities of technology, and especially telecommunications, to overcome many on-site limitations in resources.”
Secondly, the authors have called for designing and implementing “regional and global pricing and procurement mechanisms.” These would offer individual countries the opportunity to participate in collective, multi-country negotiation to secure reduced prices for essential services, drugs, and vaccines.
Thirdly, focusing on expanding the financial resources available for prevention, treatment, and palliation of cancer in the developing world should be a key intervention area.
All these efforts by individual nations will have to be bolstered by coordinated efforts and synergy among international organisations, such as WHO, the World Bank and regional development banks, and bilateral donors.
Setting the context for the country, Dr. Reddy said, “There are a large number of cancer patients in India and this number is steadily rising among all sections of the society. Currently, advanced treatments are available only at tertiary care centres located in major cities. There is a need to integrate diagnosis and treatment into the public healthcare system that goes beyond palliative care.”