Last week, Isabel Mestres, our Director of Global Affairs, wrote a powerful piece in Spanish-language financial magazine América Economía, outlining the growing challenge cancer poses, particularly to urban populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMCs) in regions such as Latin America, and explaining C/Can’s efforts to improve access to equitable cancer care.
The cancer problem
As Isabel points out, the World Health Organization has identified a common group of risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases, which include an ageing population and lifestyle-related factors, such as alcohol abuse, tobacco, obesity and sedentary lifestyle. These, together with other risk factors specific to cancer, such as hepatitis B and human papillomavirus infections, are contributing to the increase in the incidence of the disease, which is now the second leading cause of death in the world.
Particularly alarming is the fact that some 70% of these deaths occur in LMCs, that are least equipped to manage the challenge, and where the chances of surviving cancer can largely depend on how much money you have and where you live.
Isabel explains that this is what we have been working on and exploring since 2017 when we launched C/Can to work directly with cities around the world to respond to the growing magnitude of the cancer problem. Our model offers cities the necessary tools to promote innovative and sustainable solutions that generate significant changes at the local regional and national levels, created through multisectoral collaboration – increasingly recognised as the most effective way to improve access to cancer care where resources are scarce.
In practice, this means harnessing political will and commitment from the public and private sectors, as well as civil society organisations, to develop and deliver evidence-based cancer control plans.
Our experiences in these and other cities around the world help to document and refine the model so that it can be scaled up. Ours is a practical, needs-based approach: in our cities in Latin America, for instance, our focus has been on the development and implementation of standard operating procedures and quality controls in pathology laboratories, standardised reporting for diagnostic services, capacity building for local radiotherapy services, and the establishment of treatment protocols based on local data and expertise.
It’s early days, and much remains to be done in improving access to equitable cancer care: we continue to expand our network of cities and apply the knowledge and experience we are gaining. For more details on our approach, and the work underway in Latin America take a more in-depth look at Isabel’s article.