Carmen Auste, CEO of the Cancer Warriors Foundation in the Philippines has been appointed to be one of three civil society representatives in the newly organised National Cancer Council of the Philippines. Christine Mugo Sitati, Executive Director of the Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO) has been appointed to a Committee tasked with designing an effective cancer management structure in Kenya. Tsetsegsaikhan Batmunkh, Founder and CEO of National Cancer Council of Mongolia has been named Director of the newly established Medicine and Medical Devices Regulatory Agency of Mongolia.
These three organisations are highly engaged members of UICC and also part of UICC’s Cancer Advocates programme. Launched in 2018, this programme is now supporting its second cohort of 21 organisations, known as Country Champions, in their national advocacy efforts. The programme provides expert guidance, personalised technical support and opportunities to develop key skills, and strengthen participating organisations' ability to initiate concrete and meaningful change to cancer control policy in their countries.
The Cancer Warriors Foundation has been active in supporting cancer patients and advocating for greater access to treatment and medicines in the Philippines for 20 years. The organisation’s CEO, Carmen Auste, is the mother of a brain cancer survivor and Past President of Childhood Cancer International. Since 2020, she has been part of the Scale Up Cervical Cancer Elimination with Secondary prevention Strategy (SUCCESS) project, a consortium led by Expertise France, funded by Unitaid and delivered in partnership with Jhpiego to intensify secondary prevention of cervical cancer in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guatemala and the Philippines.
The Philippines National Cancer Council was established following the adoption of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) in 2019, which seeks to improve survivorship, strengthen health system capacities, improve the quality of cancer care and reduce cancer incidence and mortality. Cancer Warriors Foundation co-drafted the bill with seven other civil society organisations, three of which are UICC members. In particular, Dr Rachel Rosario, a childhood cancer survivor and CEO of the Philippine Cancer Society, will also be on the Council as the patient/survivor representative.
“I am grateful, honored and excited by my appointment to the National Cancer Council of the Philippines. I see this as an opportunity to help ensure full implementation of the Nationtal Integrated Cancer Control Act ,which we envision will lead to better care for cancer patients, increased survivorship and a reduced burden on cancer patients, survivors and their families.”
– Carmen Auste, CEO of the Cancer Warriors Foundation, Philippines
The Council will provide technical guidance and support, and oversee the implementation of the NICCA, helping to optimise the use of resources and seeking to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are not forgotten. It will also lead in institutionalising policies, programmes and reforms to develop and implement a sustainable cancer control programme.
KENCO is the national umbrella body of over 35 registered cancer civil society organisations in Kenya, covering the spectrum of cancer control services. KENCO engages decision-makers to strengthen cancer control and raises the voice of civil society and cancer patient groups.
The Executive Director of KENCO, Christine Mugo-Sitati, has over 12 years of experience in health programme management, stakeholder engagement and advocacy. She is a member of the Kenya Nutritionists and Dieticians Institute and is a keen advocate for healthy living. She is also Hub Coordinator of the Africa Cancer Research and Control Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) programme and a member of the advocacy working group of the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC).
She was appointed in May to join a Committee formed by the Ministry of Health to improve the country’s cancer management structure. The Committee is expected to deliver a comprehensive report that details the prevailing cancer status in Kenya: identifies current systemic gaps; assesses current resource capacity, technologies, medical products and infrastructure; reviews global best practices in cancer care; makes recommendations to overcome limitations on transforming the health system and accelerate the implementation of the Kenya Cancer Policy 2019-2030; and provides a framework for effective governance and collaboration between key stakeholders.
"Cancer civil society plays an important role in cancer control and it is great to be involved in the task force. It is our hope that the country will prioritise and implement prevention strategies, access to vaccines, screening, and early diagnosis for timely treatment. In addition, we aim to achieve a more patient-centred cancer management system that will support patients in their cancer journey in a number of critical areas such as access to high-quality information and education resources, supportive services like accommodation, transportation, patient navigation, psychosocial support, access to pain relief and to safe and effective cancer treatment services, including high-quality and affordable medicines."
– Christine Mugo-Sitati, Executive Director of the Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations (KENCO)
As a Country Champion in the Cancer Advocates programme, the National Cancer Council of Mongolia identified childhood cancer as a key advocacy priority, and in particular the need for the development of a childhood cancer control plan and improving the childhood cancer registry.
Their advocacy efforts have led to increased awareness of childhood cancer, with the creation of the first forum on childhood cancer and an official working group on childhood cancer at the ministerial level. They also set up a journalists’ club, conducted a situational and stakeholder analysis of childhood cancer in Mongolia, drafted a policy document for childhood cancer and supported the Ministry of Health to develop a proposal on childhood cancer. As a result, the Mongolian government recently received official funding for 2020-2023 from WHO and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in the US to improve the situation of childhood cancer in Mongolia.
The organisation’s CEO, Tsetsegsaikhan Batmunkh, is Advisor to the Minister of Health and has recently been appointed as Director of the Medicines and Medical Devices Regulatory Agency, established to monitor the quality of medicines and medical devices in accordance with international standards.
More specifically, this new agency is tasked with improving the medicine registration system and the requirements for the effectiveness, safety and quality of medicines. It will also monitor advertising that involves medicines and promote their rational use. In terms of facilitating access, the agency also aims to improve cost control and distribution channels to provide the population with an uninterrupted supply of essential medicines. Finally, it will review the need for advanced technologies and equipment in the health sector and introduce modern treatment and diagnostic services as required.
"I am privileged to be appointed as a Director of the first agency to control medicines and medical devices in Mongolia. I hope that this new organisation will ensure the safety, efficacy and securiry of drugs and medical devices in the country, and advance public health by making medical products safer, more effective and affordable.”
– Tsetsegsaikhan Batmunkh, CEO of National Cancer Council of Mongolia