CSIS traveled to Zambia to document the ways that cervical cancer impacts women in the country. Janet Fleischman and Julia Nagel spoke with provincial coordinator for the cervical cancer screening program Dr. Joan Katema. She told them that the attention has been on issues like HIV/AIDS, while women continue to die from cervical cancer. “But we’d still find that despite [women] accessing the ARVs and all the services that come with the ART clinic, they were still dying from cervical cancer,” she said.
Watch the video to learn more and here is a further explanation of what is being done in Zambia to address cervical cancer.
The Zambian government has also been very engaged in PRRR, led by the first lady, Dr. Christine Kaseba Sata, an obstetrician and gynecologist herself. The impact of this leadership is apparent, according to a nurse supervisor with the cervical cancer program: “We’ve been encouraged a lot by our women leaders in this country… including the First Lady. She’s been talking about cervical cancer screening and [its] importance a lot on TV, on radio, and so as a result, we’ve seen that a lot of women have reacted positively, received the message and have come in for screening.”
The rise of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty during the past 50 years is a story of tremendous, unprecedented human progress. A significant factor in this success has been the global community’s coordinated effort to tackle serious health and economic barriers, like HIV, malaria, pneumonia, and lack of access to family planning.
During the last two decades, the number of deaths of children under 5 has fallen by about half. The conversation about eradicating polio is now focused on only three countries and seems within reach. Even regarding HIV and AIDS, the scourge of a generation, we may be seeing the beginning of the end. The call for an “AIDS-free generation” seems more plausible now than it did only a few years ago.
Much work still remains to be done in these areas, but the foundation of multi-sector collaboration around the issues is an encouraging sign. It is imperative that we apply this same degree of coordination and sense of urgency to the growing burden of cancer in the developing world — a health and economic crisis that is going largely unaddressed.
In our new podcast series PSI’s Sally Cowal and Clementine Noblecourt discuss interventions that are working to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in Africa. Have a listen!
By: Alexandra Steverson, Program Assistant for the Southern Africa Region*
Globally, one woman dies every two minutes from cervical cancer. As the second most common cancer among women, there are 530,000 new cases every year. The developing world is disproportionately burdened by this disease - 86% of cases occur in developing countries where prevention services are limited or unavailable. In some environments, the mortality rate is as high as 52%.
We know that infection with one of many strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a leading cause of cervical cancer. The good news is that it can be prevented. Screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions is the most cost effective method of preventing the disease and creating positive health impact in low-resource settings. However, less than 5% of women in developing countries have accessed screening services. With simple, low-cost interventions, organization like PSI can improve health outcomes for a population that is often neglected, women around the world.
This month, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) recognizes Cervical Health Awareness Month. Cervical cancer infects an estimated 12,000 American women each year, of with more than 4,000 die. It is an even greater burden in developing countries. More than 80% of deaths caused by cervical cancer deaths take place in developing countries and it significantly impacts the poor.
The good news is that a vaccine against HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer, can greatly reduce the number of infections. “Cervical cancer is preventable through vaccines and screening tests. Making sure these tools reach the most vulnerable women is critical, of course, but so are efforts to educate women about the disease. Accurate, culturally-sensitive information and access to care are an unbeatable combination,” said ASHA/NCCC President and CEO Lynn B. Barclay in a press release calling for the prevention of cervical cancer.
The Union for International Cancer Control is sponsoring a pair of Cervical Cancer Action webinars this month that will lead discussions on addressing the problem of cervical cancer in Africa and South America. Members of the PSI team will be participating in discussion and we hope that you will join us.
Check out the details below:
A cervical cancer free Africa: regional solutions for lasting change
Wednesday, 16 January
Webinar will last 90 minutes, beginning at 9:00 AM EST
Check the time of the webinar in your country
This webinar will be presented in English.
Early efforts to improve screening and early treatment for women and to introduce HPV vaccine to girls are beginning to pick up speed across the continent. Many governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are taking bold steps to prevent cervical cancer, but their action may be impeded by common myths and misconceptions. During this 90-minute discussion, regional experts will describe the progress made to date in Africa and describe emerging opportunities, available expertise, and tools to help countries reshape the future of this tragic, and entirely preventable, disease.
Cancer is a global killer that claims 7.6 million lives each year. While much of the attention on cancer is local, the burden of cancer rests in the developing world. <a href=”http://www.who.int/cancer/en/”>According to the WHO</a>, an estimated 70% of cancer deaths take place in low and middle income countries. Furthermore, the WHO also says that 30% of cancer deaths can be prevented. With the majority of deaths taking place in resource-strapped countries, it is also where the majority of improvement can take place.
Rutgers University researcher Julie Livingston will soon publish a book on Princess Marina Hospital, home to the only dedicated oncology ward in Botswana. The main character of the story is a German oncologist, but Livingston says in her preface that the focal point is cancer itself. Cancer is an equal opportunity killer. The story is about the development of oncology in the wake of Botswana’s development.
The good news is that the publisher, Duke University Press, has made a preview of the book available online. Below you can read through the first chapter. Take a look:
The following post is by Deputy Editor Tom Murphy. The review is his personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect that of PSI.
An instructive e-book on global health by TED Senior Fellow and healthcare expert Alanna Shaikh debuted a few weeks ago. What’s Killing Us: A Practical Guide to Understanding Our Biggest Global Health Problems discusses a series of global health challenges, why they matter to the rest of the world, and what can be done to minimize or negate their impact.
The short e-book is a quick read, an hour or so, and is intended for an audience that is interested in but not knowledgeable about global health. For someone who reads and writes about global health on a daily basis, this is an excellent resource.
I can see this as a text used in an undergraduate course on development or health. Alanna makes it an engaging read by using a semi-informal style that does not minimize the gravity of the content, but invites the reader to engage in the information in a manner that is beyond pure consumption.
For global health professionals, this is the book you want to give to your family and friends so they can understand why you do what you do.
Alanna graciously agreed to answer some questions about the book.
Tom Murphy: Given the general TED audience, why did you decide to write an e-book that is intended for people who know little about global health?
Alanna Shaikh: One thing I know from attending TED is that global health is surprisingly opaque to most people. Everyone had heard a little about HIV or a little about bird flu, but it’s rare to find someone without a global health education that has a background in the issues. Media coverage of global health isn’t great, so no one really has a base level of knowledge unless they seek it out.
People have been asking me for years how they can get started learning about global health, and I never had a suggestion. So I wrote a book I can suggest.