What does “global health equity” mean? There are so many different aspects of health care affecting us all. There are disparities in the world; there are disparities within countries; there are disparities within cities. How do we tackle these enormous issues? First, we need to level the playing field. I think that access to health care should be available to all. This goal—increasing access for all patients no matter who they are or where they live—is one of the major initiatives of my Presidential term, exemplified by my theme, “Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer.”
Cancer is now a leading killer in developing countries—56% of cancer diagnoses and 64% of cancer deaths are in less-developed countries. Highly organized educational programs and screening are necessary for prevention of cancer, and this is where it must begin. We must stop smoking, obesity, and infectious diseases such as Hepatitis, all of which have significant risk factors related to cancer. The recognition by the United Nations last September of cancer and other “non-communicable diseases” as a global health priority was a first step in highlighting the importance of cancer on the world health agenda, and we must continue to build on the goals and momentum launched at that historic event.
With ASCO’s global reach extending to over 100 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the organization is a critical resource in the world’s response to the cancer epidemic. ASCO has the technical knowledge that spans the cancer continuum, from prevention to early detection, diagnosis, treatment, palliation, surveillance, and research.
ASCO’s international programs under the guidance of the International Affairs Committee
—led by the terrific team of Chair David Khayat, MD, PhD, and Immediate Past Chair Tanja Čufer MD, PhD—have made tremendous progress in the past several years. ASCO embraces and supports its global membership as they work to disseminate the knowledge about oncology that will allow health care workers worldwide to provide high-quality health care for their patients.
ASCO’s international efforts include courses on the multidisciplinary care of cancer, palliative care, clinic research, and geriatric oncology. The Best of ASCO®
programs have been held in 22 different countries with a great response from participants. There are international editions of the Journal of Clinical Oncology
in several countries, and our International Cancer Corps sends ASCO members to hospitals in developing countries where they share knowledge and ideas that enhance patient care. As always, the recognition of the needs of each country comes from that country itself. This overall response from the ASCO membership has been outstanding with 50 volunteers participating so far in various programs.
In addition, the International Development and Education Award (IDEA)
pairs young oncologists with leaders in the field in the United States and gives them opportunities to take knowledge back to their home country. I personally worked with an IDEA awardee from Uruguay and have the pleasure of going to their country in the fall to attend one of their conferences. I think this is a great program to harness the passion of these young oncologists and help them with implementation of programs when they go back home.
We also recognize that ASCO by itself does not have all the answers. In fact, the best effective solutions come from developing countries themselves. Exploring ways for ASCO to support innovative research that can offer solutions to cancer control is imperative.
Examples of these include innovative community-outreach programs that help detect cancers early and that use older therapies in new ways.
Building bridges to close gaps in economic and geographic disparities and to close the gaps between research and practical applications requires a multidisciplinary team approach. One way that you can help “build this bridge” is to let us know how ASCO can address your needs. Please let us know! I look forward to your comments.