South Africa’s Cancer Alliance calls for unity and innovation to address key challenges in SA Cancer Care

……….Cancer Alliance Representing South Africa’s Leading Cancer Advocacy NGOs – Johannesburg – Following initial meetings in June 2011, South Africa’s Cancer NGOs have unified with one voice, calling on all stakeholders to join together to address vital issues regarding quality of and access to cancer care in South Africa. The Cancer Alliance is an umbrella group of 19 cancer advocacy non-governmental organisations and advocates, representing approximately 80% per cent of NGOs engaged in advocacy and support for South Africa’s cancer patients.

The Cancer Alliance is calling for all key stakeholders, including government, industry, patients and health professionals, to work together to identify appropriate  solutions to improve each aspect of cancer care available and provided to all South Africans, in line with the Bill of Rights.

“Quality and access to cancer care in South Africa is improving, but varies widely by region, and between provinces, hospitals, the state and private sectors,” said Linda Greeff, cancer survivor, founder of People Living with Cancer, and a Cancer Alliance spokesperson. “There is an urgent need to improve access to screening, timely diagnosis, support care, and access to treatment via radiotherapy, surgery and medications. The challenge is vast, and it is critical that we engage the contributions and creativity of all key stakeholders to improve care and outcomes for cancer patients.”

According to the American Cancer Society, of the nearly 21 000 cancer deaths recorded per day worldwide, over two thirds occur in economically developing countries. Unlike individual infectious diseases, cancer is actually a series of over 200 different illnesses, with a range of behavioral, environmental and genetic causes. As a result, the battle against cancer is particularly difficult, requiring comprehensive approaches to prevention and treatment.

“We must call all hands on deck to meet the challenge of improving cancer care,” said Dr. Devan Moodley, a medical oncologist at Wits Oncology in Johannesburg, and board member of Campaigning for Cancer. “I want my patients to have confidence that they have the best chance possible to fight their illness and win. That’s why the Cancer Alliance will be reaching out to government, medical product suppliers, experts in community health delivery, and leading health professionals, to join us in developing innovative solutions on access to quality cancer care.”

Achieving Consensus on Priorities and Solutions

All parties who care about cancer patients agree that achieving better and more consistent access to cancer care is the main objective. The key questions, then, are:

  1. What are the top priorities – the issues that have the greatest impact on patients’ lives and health outcomes?
  2. What are the best ways to ensure expanded access to quality cancer care for all South Africans?

To answer these questions, beginning this month the Cancer Alliance will be approaching key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, to gather data, insights and ideas. In September 2012, the Alliance intends to publish a summary report on its findings, to be shared with the public.

“The problems are not simple, and neither will the solutions be,” said Joel Perry, Head of Advocacy at the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA). “But we have access in this country to advanced medical technology, as well as the skills, expertise and good will of motivated stakeholders. The Cancer Alliance is confident that, working together, we can agree on the best ways to accelerate progress, expand access, and inspire new hope for patients affected by cancer today and in the future.”

About the Cancer Alliance

The Cancer Alliance is a collective group of cancer control non-profit organisations and cancer advocates brought together under a common mandate as result of the May 2011Voice of Cancer Survivor Forum, a platform which allowed cancer survivors to express their needs regarding access to quality of care, attitudes, practices, policies of cancer control and services in South Africa.

The Alliance seeks to provide a platform of collaboration for cancer civil society to speak with one voice and be a powerful tool to effect change for all South Africans affected by cancer.  The Alliance will act as a watchful eye on strategies and policies that ensure the significant reduction of South Africa’s cancer burden and improved access to care for all cancer patients.

The Cancer Alliance will achieve this through the publication of position statements/papers and baseline papers as well as public messaging relating to

such publications. This will be strengthened with focused advocacy and lobbying activities with relevant stakeholders regarding issues faced by all South Africa’s Cancer patients.

The members of the Cancer Alliance include; amabele Belles, AORTIC, Brain Tumor Foundation SA, Breast Health Foundation, Campaigning for Cancer, Can-Sir, CANSA, CHOC, Hospice Palliative Care Association SA, IGAZI Foundation, Journey of Hope, Look Good Feel Better, National Council Against Smoking, National Kidney Foundation of South Africa, People Living With Cancer, Reach for Recovery, The Sunflower Fund, The Vrede Foundation and individual advocates.