October 28, 2019
Converting patients’ words into actions
City Cancer Challenge, Tbilisi
On February 4, 2019, World Cancer Day, leaders in the field of cancer in Georgia, including national government, civil society, academia, healthcare professionals and the private sector, came together for the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall, the Georgian Patients’ Union and the City Cancer Challenge Foundation (C/Can). The city of Tbilisi, Georgia, officially joined C/Can, outlining a two-year collaboration aimed at improving access to cancer care for its citizens.
“C/Can is a unique opportunity for Tbilisi, and is the first European city to join this global initiative, becoming part of a collective movement of cities committed to delivering quality, equitable and sustainable cancer treatment”, said Gvantsa Khizanishvili, Tbilisi City Manager of C/Can.
To achieve our goal, we create a community made up of partners working together to design, plan and implement cancer solutions. Civil society organizations play a crucial role in this system. Ms. Ekaterina Sanikidze is the Head of the Cancer Care Group for the Georgian Patients’ Union and has been actively involved in bringing C/Can to Tbilisi. “As one of the civil society partners of the City Cancer Challenge, I believe that working in a true multisectoral partnership is crucial for reaching sustainable development goals. I am sure Tbilisi will be leading the way in this innovative approach, addressing cancer treatment and care, with civil society playing a significant role in this process,” she says.
One of the key steps of the C/Can model is a city-wide needs assessment, where patients play a big role. We engaged patients in this process to better understand the challenges and bring solutions where they are most needed. We can use our resources better and more efficiently if we are aligned with patients’ priorities. Our unique approach integrates the needs of patients through patients’ organizations to guarantee they have a voice in contributing to the sustainability of health systems.
Recognizing patient engagement is an integral part of health care and a critical component of people-centred care and service provision. Anna Mazanashvili leads the Europa Donna Georgia patient organization and has been running several advocacy and awareness campaigns in Georgia. She is also a member of the C/Can Executive Committee. “
City Cancer Challenge is an extremely important new way to engage with patient groups and work together to deliver better care for patients. Patients need to be heard so we can understand the challenges we face,” says Ms Mazanashvili.
She also organized focus group discussions with patients as part of the C/Can needs assessment process. This provided a space for patients to discuss the challenges, needs and their own experiences in a safe environment. One participant commented: “I feel empowered to know that our voices matter and that these discussions will become actions and that we can contribute to improve cancer care for other patients.”
Eka Sanikidze, with the Georgian Patient’s Union, says patients and patient organizations’ involvement in City Cancer Challenge adds value and that it is encouraging to work with this model; “Patients experiences need to be shared, for the support of other patients it’s important that we talk to them and engage them in this process. Patients’ organizations can develop projects and initiatives that strengthen and fills the gaps in cancer care service delivery, bring international experience, financial, as well as technical and human recourses. Patients’ organizations can mobilize communities and bring awareness to various issues in cancer care.”
As we move forward in Tbilisi, we will make sure that patients are our focus, and we will bring individual voices to inform the overall goals of cancer care. We all have common goals and C/Can can help deliver more patient-centred and integrated cancer experiences. Together we continue to meaningfully integrate the voices of patients.