Integrating Radiation Medicine in Comprehensive Cancer Control
International Atomic Energy Agency
United Nations / Multilateral body
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2030 over 24 million people will be diagnosed with cancer and 13 million people will die each year. In addition, 59% of new cases and 72% of deaths will occur in low- and middle-income countries. With the current demand and these increasing numbers, existing health systems capacities are insufficient to adequately respond. Addressing this dire situation requires a coordinated response. A multi-regional project of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) helps provide countries with technical advice and technology across the entire cancer control continuum - from prevention to diagnosis - as well as treatment to improve their cancer services, including for women cancers.
The multi-regional project aims at improving the health systems’ ability in providing public access to affordable, qualitative, effective and sustainable radiation medicine services, such as diagnostic CT scans and radiotherapy treatments, within a comprehensive cancer control approach. Countries can benefit from a package of expert advisory services, starting from an assessment of national cancer control capacities and needs (through an imPACT review, requested by the Ministry of Health); support with cancer control planning (assistance to review and/or with development of a National Cancer Control Plan); and consequently help to mobilize resources to address funding gaps. This is implemented through a series of technical meetings and review missions bringing together many countries where knowledge, experience and lessons learned can be shared. These activities help produce good evidence-based practices and strategies for effective planning, budgeting, implementation and adequate resourcing of cancer control capacity activities. These activities are aligned with and support ongoing cancer-related projects being implemented by the IAEA. Activities are also planned and implemented in collaboration with IAEA and WHO’s partners, such as Ministries of Health and other national stakeholders; the Union of International Cancer Control and other organizations working in the field of cancer; donors, development banks and others. The initiative is assessed through a results-based monitoring framework, which draws regular feedback from counterparts, experts, partners and project-related events.
Assessments of national cancer control capacities, priorities and needs, support for cancer control planning and resource mobilization assistance are the main outputs/gains of this initiative. In 2020, 13 meetings were held among the initiative’s partners to follow up on past recommendations, providing countries with a ‘one-stop shop’ for accessing cancer control related expertise and technology. This initiative supports the Global Health Agenda which aims to scale up resources and establish strong political commitment for an effective international response to cancer through a concerted effort from a broad range of partners. Potential risks in undertaking this initiative includes changes in countries’ health priorities and their limited national budgets for cancer-related activities. To mitigate these risks, high-level meetings are convened to advocate in making cancer a national priority and increase resources accordingly.
Partnerships form the backbone of the complex task in creating and implementing national cancer control programmes, bringing together technical advice from across the entire cancer control continuum and supporting countries to improve their capacities. Open communication between the IAEA, WHO and IARC, including an annual review meeting to discuss progress and mitigate challenges, helps ensure the practice can succeed. Financing received from new partners with dedicated donors also supports its success, as the project is funded through extra-budgetary resources.
The sustainability of the project relies on the strong engagement and commitment by Ministers of Health and counterparts to the initiative whom, in requesting IAEA support, recognize the value and effectiveness of a national comprehensive cancer control approach. The initiative’s distinguishing feature of bringing together key partners ensures a stronger impact on the global cancer control scenario. A long-term impact and replicability may be achieved in regard to the national health system of countries benefiting from the activities of this initiative, as it prompts the sharing of best practices and knowledge among countries, as well as fostering south-south cooperation.
https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/cancer-control-assessment-offered-by-the-iaea-who-and-iarc-goes-virtual https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/virtual-cancer-control-assessment-in-senegal-by-iaea-and-partners https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/experts-assess-malis-cancer-control-capacities
Due to the COVID-19 situation, all activities for the initiative have continued virtually. Virtual meetings allowed more participants and increased joint cancer control assessments than otherwise expected travels to the countries would have made possible. Many countries are continuously committing to improve their health systems in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting comprehensive cancer care efforts not only strengthens a country’s ability to respond to its cancer burden but can also improve key elements of a strong health system, such as the availability of skilled staff in general.
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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Countries benefit from an approach to cancer control that takes a comprehensive perspective and that links to programmatic support across the IAEA, WHO and IARC. The practice engages key stakeholders from different institutions at the national level, including the Ministry of Health, hospitals, academic institutions and regulatory authorities. It helps raise the profile of cancer on a country’s national agenda.