City Cancer Challenge addresses urban cancer issues

October 8, 2018

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) recently launched the next phase of its global initiative, City Cancer Challenge, inviting cities from across Asia to take steps to increase access to quality cancer services.

Speaking at the World Cancer Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, current President of UICC stated, “The battle against cancer is real. We are facing 18.1 million new cancer cases and over 9.6 million deaths worldwide each year, with numbers expected to rise over the next decade, and there will be serious implications for countries where resources are limited.”

Launched in January 2017, City Cancer Challenge is a global initiative focused on working with cities a population of over a million, supported by a multi-sectoral network of global and local partners, in the design, planning, and implementation of cancer treatment solutions.

As the first step of implementation in Cali (Colombia), City Cancer Challenge partnered with the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) to deliver a series of workshops to 60 laboratory professionals that provided technical assistance to support the need to enhance quality control, strengthening the laboratory network across the region.

The needs assessment in Asunción (Paraguay) highlighted fragmentation of the local health system, resulting in a lack of coordination between healthcare institutions, increased costs and inequality of care. In direct response, the City Executive Committee prioritised the need to work collaboratively on a draft Cancer Law for Paraguay – a legal framework based on the right for citizens to access comprehensive cancer services. The law, which covers all services dedicated to cancer care, is currently undergoing review by the Senate’s health commission.

Similar efforts are also underway in Kumasi (Ghana), where the assessment stage is in process, and Yangon (Myanmar), whose City Executive Committee is focusing on the translation of their assessment findings into a city activity plan for priority actions.

“The City Cancer Challenge is about going on the ground. We enter a city and for three years, we seek out their problems, help them operationalise and manage their process, and facilitate them in moving forward,” explained Princess Dina.

The original initiative was about taking all the experiences from the Key Learning Cities and putting it into a scientific model so that other cities could eventually replicate. However,due to the sheer demand of cities that wanted to be a part of it, UICC launched the City Cancer Challenge,to give them the tools and support they needed.

“Cities bid for it. They have to be serious about investing in cancer. Everybody has to be willing to sit together at the same table – public, private and government sectors – to make this initiative work. There is a local person on the ground to keep things organised, with the regional and global team checking up on them.”

The first successful cities to secure their position as Challenge Cities include Kigali (Rwanda), Porto Alegre (Brazil), and Tbilisi (Georgia), earlier this year.

With 54% of the world’s population living in urban areas, cities are uniquely positioned to drive sustainable innovation in the delivery of health services to large populations. Since the launch of the City Cancer Challenge in 2017, the four original Key Learning Cities have been mobilising the initiative’s network of global and local partners to develop and implement localised action plans, tailored to the needs of each city. These plans have the potential to improve cancer care for over 25 million people.

Pharmaceutical companies have grouped together under a conglomerate called Access Accelerated, to show support for the initiative, with a representative on the board of directors to speak for pharma.

As lead scalability partner, Swiss multinational healthcare company,Roche, will support the growth of the initiative by sharing its health system knowledge, business planning expertise, and the necessary financial support. The company is adopting Tbilisi in Georgia to help implement the Challenge.

“The beauty of this project is, as it accelerates from 4 to 20 cities, we can pin on the learnings from those 4 cities that we headed over the last year,” stated Roche Asia Pacific Regional Head Market Access, Alexander Zach.

“And we are happy as an organisation to be a scalability partner and contribute not only financially, but predominantly through our know-how.”

Through an open application process over the course of the next two years. City Cancer Challenge will select up to sixteen cities of varying sizes, geographic regions, income-settings, and cancer care contexts, with the goal of reaching a wider network of cities, in every region, to measurably improve access to essential cancer medicines and technologies across the world. Successful cities will engage in a transformational two-year process including stakeholder engagement, landscape assessment, channel activation, and activity planning and implementation, to strengthen their capacity, leadership, and accountability in the delivery of cancer treatment, care, and control that effectively meets the needs of their population.

“This is something to be done in partnership, and a city shouldn’t be afraid to tap into that. It’s a collaborative force that’s helping trainings, communication talks, and business plans. About 4 billion people live in Asia ­– more than half the world’s population – so we encourage Asian countries to apply,” said Zach.

“I’m the mother of a cancer survivor,I’ve seen access to care, and this is something we can’t do alone” said Princess Dina.

“We need people of all backgrounds on the ground.People think it’s undoable, overwhelming, impossible, challenging, but I watched it happen in Jordan. I went to St Judes Hospital to learn from how to build a proper governmental foundation. I took their bylaws, that’s how we understood that you don’t have to be all doctors. You have to start somewhere. We’ll provide the tools, the plans, and maybe take yourself to another city who’s done it right and try emulate them. If a country really knows how to utilise these skills, they can really make a difference, because 10%, 20% quality care is still better than 0.”

City Cancer Challenge partners include Access Accelerated, (representing 24 global biopharmaceutical companies), AdvaMed (representing Varian, Elekta, and Accuray), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP), Amgen, Direct Relief, Icon Group, Sanofi Espoir Foundation, the National Cancer Institute (US), the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC), the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

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