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Cancer experts call for innovations to advance equitable care

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Global cancer leaders have called for an urgent and comprehensive look at ways to advance health equity, using lessons learned from Covid-19.

The 2021 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, a gathering of global cancer leaders, convened this week (October 25 and 26) for the first time since the pandemic began, and concluded with a call to address inequities in cancer care.

Attendees urged other health care leaders, nonprofit organisations and governments across the world to focus and collaborate on efforts to increase equity.

Dr Cary Adams, CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) said: “Inequities and disparities in health and care have always existed, but Covid-19 brought them to the forefront of discussions about global public health.

“We, as leaders of the cancer community, must take those experiences and use them to make cancer prevention and care more accessible and equitable.”

More than 600 leaders attended the summit, where they discussed the impact of delayed diagnoses and treatment on service delivery and future mortality, as well as increasing innovation and equity in cancer care. And developments in advanced technology (AI, multi-cancer screenings, mRNA vaccines for cancer) to prevent cancer more efficiently, detect it more quickly and treat it more effectively

Organized by UICC and hosted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit brought together global health leaders from more than 100 countries to discuss critical innovations that can drive more equitable cancer care.

Professor Anil D’Cruz, president of UICC and director of oncology at Apollo Hospitals, India said: “I personally witnessed the horrors of inequitable access to care and its tragic consequences when Covid-19 swept through India.

“This is our generation’s ‘never again’ moment. Health care leaders must take what they learned through Covid to address problems in the current global health care system and institute innovations that will make more people safer from the dangers of infectious diseases, and more accessible to treatments and preventive tools.”

People who have survived cancer and become strong advocates for the need to include patient voices in developing efficient cancer control policies also spoke at the summit.

Based on personal experience, they highlighted the importance of a patient’s support network and how the notions of risk and value or quality of life vary for each person.

They also emphasised how essential it is to support people who have been successfully treated, as there are often other health implications as well as psychosocial care needs that must be addressed.

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