Paris, France and Geneva, Switzerland - February 15, 2011 - Today, on International Childhood Cancer Day, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and Sanofi Espoir Foundation announced that 23 ongoing projects from 18 low- and middle-income countries have been awarded renewed support of up to € 50,000 each to improving cancer care for children through the My Child Matters initiative. On this occasion, both partners have jointly published a successful review of the six- year programme.
Each year, more than 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer, and about 90,000 die from the disease. With prompt and effective treatment, most childhood cancers can be cured – but global statistics expose a shocking disparity - in developed countries, around 80% of children with cancer survive, but in low resource settings this figure falls to 20% or even 10% in the world's poorest countries, where it is difficult to gain access to information, early diagnosis, care and treatment.
"After six years of unwavering commitment, the first very significant results show that it is possible to join forces and build new forms of partnership to improve the management of childhood cancer at all stages in a country’s development," says Caty Forget, Managing Director of the Sanofi Espoir Foundation. “We shall continue with our efforts to provide more sustainable support for the local actors who are doing such a great job, and help them share their practices with other countries facing similar challenges.”
My Child Matters has already provided support to 43 hospitals and NGOs in 26 countries to reduce inequalities between developed and resource-constrained countries through grass-roots projects in these six years. Today, 23 projects across 18 countries continue to benefit from this initiative to improve every link in the health chain: better information, education and prevention, improved training for qualified personnel, helping to ensure earlier diagnoses, fostering better access to care and better pain management, developing palliative care and encouraging better understanding of the social aspects of this disease both for children and their families.
Dr. Julie Torode, Deputy CEO of UICC said: “The United Nations High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases in September 2011, provides UICC and other civil society partners with the opportunity to lay down the challenge to governments to capitalise on public-private initiatives such as My Child Matters, and work with these centres of excellence to integrate and expand on these and other cancer success stories as part of their national cancer plans”.
The My Child Matters initiative was launched in 2005 when the Sanofi Espoir Foundation proposed to create an innovative partnership with UICC. It has now grown into one of the largest childhood cancer initiatives in terms of the number of low- and middle-income countries involved. The programme enables local partners, hospitals and NGOs to benefit from financial support (€20,000 to €50,000 per project per year, following an annual evaluation of each project by the Steering Committee2), advice from international paediatric oncology and public health experts, and the South/South pooling of project experiences. The Sanofi Espoir Foundation has contributed a total of €3,700,000 towards the initiative since 2005.
Annual reviews with all local partners help to measure the programme’s impact on the community - the children, their families and health workers - and assess its leverage on the health policies of the countries concerned.
Extremely promising results have been obtained on three continents:
In Honduras, in an effort to reduce the number of patients dropping out of treatment, the support provided has made it possible to position satellite clinics much closer to patients. This reduces both time spent travelling to the care centre, and work absenteeism among parents. Following the opening of six satellite clinics, dropout rates fell from 40% to 10% between 2005 and 2010.
In Paraguay, where they face the same problem, a national network of professional support for childhood cancer has been formed (and declared of national interest) and a number of satellite clinics have been opened. Patient treatment dropouts have decreased from 20% to 0% in two years. The programme has expanded to include training projects by twinning with Spain and the United States, and a South/South pooling of expertise with Argentina and Bolivia.
Kenya improved its management of Burkitt's lymphoma (which accounts for 40% of childhood cancers in this country) by keeping records, improving public information and the training of health professionals. These developments have helped break the vicious cycle of stigma among communities, families, and carers, and encouraged more early diagnosis of curable cancer.
In Morocco, an interdisciplinary approach has been set up to fight pain in children, a still largely uncharted area. This integrated approach is based on awareness raising among children and parents, training for caregivers and appropriate treatment. Today, pain management has made significant progress and ‘anti-pain committees’ have been trained in several hospitals. This innovative experience has helped humanize care and will be shared with other countries. In Senegal, the rehabilitation of the paediatric oncology unit, the prevention of nosocomial infections, the treatment of febrile neutropenia and pain, the introduction of appropriate protocols and better training of health professionals have all led to greater government and civil society commitment to the project. This has led to an overall improvement in the survival rate for cancer, with the survival rate for kidney cancer (the most frequent childrens’ cancer in the unit) rising from 46.7% in 2005 to 71% in 2010.
In the Philippines, the support provided has helped improve early diagnosis of acute leukaemia and retinoblastoma by boosting the training of primary care physicians and paediatricians. In 2010, the first and only centre for the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer was opened, and is now deemed a reference centre by the health authorities. In 2011, the first computerised database of childhood cancer will be compiled with the support of My Child Matters.
In Thailand, advances have resulted in the recognition of the importance of palliative care and psychosocial support. The country will host a World Congress on palliative care for the first time in 2011.