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Partnership in Cancer Control Planning Saves Lives

, by Laura Prakash and Kalina Duncan

Five years ago, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) was launched by the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Susan G. Komen®, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, to address the growing burden of cervical and breast cancer in low- and middle-income countries.

The National Cancer Institute’s Center for Global Health (CGH) joined forces as a partner with PRRR four years ago, and has worked to develop and improve cancer control programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically in Botswana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia. The CGH/PRRR partnership has shone a light on the importance of national cancer control planning in addressing breast and cervical cancer. CGH works with PRRR to help countries develop and implement comprehensive, evidence-based, well-resourced and operational cancer control plans that translate commitments to health into actions. In addition, CGH actively supports cancer registration efforts since understanding the national cancer burden is a critical step to address morbidity and mortality related to cancer.    

In June 2014, CGH conducted a Cancer Control Leadership Forum in Sub-Saharan Africa – a large-scale training and collaboration event with representatives from Botswana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia.  Participants established an action plan for developing national cancer control plans to reduce morbidity and mortality of breast and cervical cancer.  Since then:

  • CGH conducted an in-country assessment of Ethiopia’s cancer registry (February 2015) as part of the official PRRR launch and to provide appropriate technical assistance. Ethiopia launched its first National Cancer Control Plan in October 2015.
  • Tanzania is developing its first national treatment protocols and service delivery guidelines for invasive female cancers; and has reached out to CGH for technical assistance and guidance around their national plan for prostate cancer screening.
  • In Zambia, CGH has worked with PRRR to support a cancer registry director for three years (through 2017) via a fellowship from the Union for International Cancer Control; and provided technical assistance for cancer registration research and reporting. The position is now supported by the Zambian Government. Additionally, the Zambian Ministry of Health approved the National Cancer Control Strategic Plan in 2016.
  • In Botswana, CGH conducted a mid-term evaluation of the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Program (September 2015), and was a planning partner in the National Stakeholders Meeting in Cancer Control Planning in Gaborone (September 2016). Stakeholders reviewed the cancer control and prevention efforts in Botswana; discussed challenges and gaps that effect and inform policy; and identify priority solutions that engage and utilize local, regional, and international experience. Jack Welch presented evidence to inform Botswana’s decision about a national prostate cancer screening program, and Kalina Duncan presented tools for planning and prevention including the International Cancer Control Partnership portal, and the Knowledge Summaries of Comprehensive Breast Cancer Control.  

In its first five years, PRRR has opened over 150 “screen-and-treat” sites in these four Sub-Saharan African countries; they have screened over 315,000 women for cervical cancer, and over 15,000 women for breast cancer.  This partnership has also supported the vaccination of over 120,000 girls against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.  It is estimated that these screening and treatment programs have saved over 35,000 lives thus far.  This is an incredible achievement and it’s only the beginning; here is to the next five years and tens of thousands lives saved!

We look forward to participating in PRRR fifth-anniversary-related activities and invite you to follow both @NCIGlobalHealth and PRRR @pinkredribbon to learn more.

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