With the support of UICC, the UICC-Asia Regional Office (UICC-ARO) has a longstanding commitment to researching Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for cancer.
At the 80th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Cancer Association, held in hybrid format, UICC-ARO held a session on 2 October that looked at sources of innovation for achieving UHC in Asia. Prof. Jeff Dunn, UICC President-elect and CEO of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, gave opening remarks on the future of UHC in Asia. Joining Jeff Dunn as session co-Chairs were Dr Tetsuo Noda, Executive Chair of UICC-Japan and Dr Kazuo Tajima, Visiting Professor and Research Associate at Mie University.
This session came just ahead of the World Cancer’s Leaders’ Summit on 25-26 October 2021, which addresses the theme of innovation to advance cancer control equitably. It also anticipates another session hosted by UICC-ARO on Saturday 23 October at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Clinical Oncology, one of the largest cancer conferences in the region, with the presence of Keizo Takemi, Senior Fellow at JCIE/Japan, Member of the House of Councillors of the Japanese Parliament and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for UHC.
“In order to raise the level of cancer treatment in Asia, we must not only concentrate on the medical characteristics of the disease, but also adopt a more macro perspective that takes into account the social determinants of cancer in Asia, including social structures, culture and economy,” said Dr Tajima.
For his part, Prof. Dunn emphasised that all stakeholders have a role to play and that together, everyone’s actions matter. He underscored the important role of civil society organisations in advocating for UHC, given that half of the world’s population does not have access to essential health services.
Dr Mary Gospodarowicz, former Medical Director of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at the University of Toronto and co-Chair of The Lancet Commission on cancer and health systems, provided a view of increasing access to radiotherapy and secure equitable access to and benefits from care for everyone. She said that while medical and technological advances mean that outcomes for people with cancer are improving, investments in health systems are crucial to make them accessible to all populations, noting that radiotherapy falls short in many UHC systems.
Other speakers at the session included Dr Kunihiko Ishitani of Higashi Sapporo Hospital, who touched upon the topic of UHC and palliative care, emphasising the need to find new ways to solve health challenges, such as the use of digital tools, and leverage the expertise of scientists and researchers in government and the private sector; Dr Takahiro Tabuchi of the Osaka International Cancer Institute, who highlighted the ongoing importance of tobacco control measures, including price increases, smoke-free policies and anti-tobacco media campaigns; and Dr Masaru Iwasaki of the University of Yamanashi, who spoke about the role for UICC-Japan in new drug development and UHC in Asia, in collaboration with the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).