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Regional experts on childhood cancer join forces to reduce inequities and increase access to care

Silvana Luciani

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PAHO, together with UICC, governments, and academia convene to discuss strategies to reduce inequities and increase access to childhood cancer care in Latin America and the Caribbean Improving access to care for children with cancer and reducing the inequities associated with outcomes for children with cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is the main goal of PAHO’s Childhood Cancer Working Group. The group, formed in 2017 on the heals of a policy dialogue by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), gathered the leading pediatric oncologists from public health institutions in LAC, as well as representatives from Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Chile, the University of West Indies and UICC. To first better understand the situation, barriers and challenges within health systems to better care for children with cancer, the working group is conducting an analysis of childhood cancer care and outcomes in LAC, coordinated by the University of Chile. Through a key informant survey and interviews, information is being collected on governance, financing, delivery of treatment and care and surveillance of childhood cancer. The analysis will lead to the identification of successful models of childhood cancer care for the region, and will form the basis upon which feasible and sustainable strategies will be suggested to improve care for children with cancer in the region. Cancer is among the leading causes of death in children under the age of 15 years. In high- income countries, childhood cancer mortality has been reduced significantly and survival rates are 80% or higher. However, in Latin America and the Caribbean, pediatric cancer survival rates are significantly lower than in high-income countries, due to the gaps in access to early diagnosis and effective treatment. First meeting of the Childhood Cancer Working Group In its first face to face meeting, held on 2-3 February, 2017 at PAHO Headquarters in Washington, DC, the Childhood Cancer Working Group discussed key elements within the health care systems that need strengthening to improve childhood cancer care in LAC. One of the major barriers identified was access, availability and quality of pediatric cancer drugs. The working group noted that the PAHO Strategic Fund, a pooled procurement mechanisms for essential medicines including those used in the treatment of cancer, offers an excellent opportunity to overcome this barrier for care. Important advances in childhood cancer care were presented by the representatives of childhood cancer programs in Argentina, Barbados, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. These experiences illustrated the possibilities, within the constraints of limited resource health systems, to improve access to pediatric cancer care. The conclusions of the workgroup meeting called for completing the regional analysis of childhood cancer care and publishing and disseminating the results. The working group also called for, among other items, to compile and disseminate evidence based clinical guidelines to ensure standardized approaches to treatment, and to utilize the PAHO Strategic Fund to improve access and availability of essential medicines for childhood cancers. The meeting report can be downloaded in le following link:

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