“A goal without a plan is just a wish”: This quote by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is an idea that guides the International Cancer Control Partnership (ICCP) in its mission to support governments around the world in designing effective strategies to reduce their cancer burden and to see them implemented.
The partnership was co-founded in November 2012, following a roundtable at the World Cancer Congress in Montreal, by UICC and the US National Cancer Institute (NCI). Today, ICCP consists of a network of 21 organisations who individually support country cancer control planning activities and who work together to maximise their collective resources and avoid duplication of their effort.
In the first years of the partnership, ICCP provided technical assistance through the International Cancer Control Leadership Forums (ICCLF). A series of nine forums took place over five years, supporting 38 countries in total. ICCP’s technical assistance offer has expanded gradually; in addition to reviewing and evaluating NCCP drafts, ICCP has assisted countries with updating expired or soon-to-expire NCCPs, lent expertise on a specific area of cancer control (e.g. pathology), organised a Master course on NCCPs and developed a Project ECHO telementoring programme to support countries in the implementation stage of their national cancer control plan.
Cancer is a challenging disease for all health systems, and the lack of a national cancer strategy can make it more difficult for them to be accountable and aware of best practices.
In an article published in Foresight Global Health, Zuzanna Tittenbrun, Global Resources Manager at UICC and Sonali Johnson, Head of Knowledge, Advocacy and Policy at UICC and former member of the ICCP Steering Committee, develop how the ICCP is helping countries to fill this gap.
The partnership set up the ICCP portal as a repository of National Cancer Control Plans (NCCPs). One of the goals of the ICCP’s strategic plan is to maintain the portal as a credible source of information and repository of plans, which did not exist 10 years ago, with the view that publicly available documents have a greater chance of holding governments accountable and therefore being implemented than those living on the shelves of ministries of health. Since its inception ten years ago, the number of NCCPs in the public domain has grown from an initial 42 NCCPs to 121.
Over the years, the portal has grown into a one-stop shop for cancer prevention and control planning. It also hosts plans to address non-communicable diseases more widely, and other curated resources for policy makers and cancer planners. ICCP’s work in the past five years alone has resulted in 15 publications, including web articles, editorials and peer-reviewed papers.
In 2018, ICCP undertook a global review of NCCPs, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UICC. The review encompassed the entire cancer control continuum: prevention, early detection and diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, palliative care, research, health workforce, health information systems, governance and budget.
This detailed study aimed to improve the understanding of strengths and limitations of current plans.
The study confirmed improvements in the comprehensiveness of cancer plans related to technical engagement from local, national or international partners; emergence of evidence-based policy guidelines; or increased awareness of the importance of NCCPs. The review also revealed, however, that national plans often had insufficient detail to be effectively implemented.
The ICCP partnership is now working towards a second global review, planned for 2023. This review will take into account new NCCPs to compare with the 2018 baseline, show evolution of NCCPs and cover new areas and global priorities, including pandemic preparedness that were not included before.
In the past ten years, the ICCP has successfully collaborated with local, national and global actors as well as UN agencies to promote evidence-based national cancer control planning, and continues to provide technical assistance to countries at various stages of NCCP development and implementation.