2017 cancer resolution: From global commitment to national action

Next week is the World Health Assembly in Geneva and we have a cancer resolution on the agenda for adoption. What is a cancer resolution, you might ask? Well, it gives the World Health Organization the mandate to put more resources toward cancer and to offer technical assistance to Member States. Member States = countries. This is particularly important for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where 70% of all cancer deaths occur.

70% of how many cancer deaths? In 2015, 8.8 million people died from cancer. Cancer incidence is up to 15.2 million in 2015 from 14.1 million in 2012. In the next two decades, global incidence is meant to rise another 70%.

So, reread my leading line and believe me when I say the successful adoption of a cancer resolution at the World Health Assembly is significant, to all of us and, especially, to vulnerable populations, whether it is uninsured citizens in the U.S. who face huge health fees if they face illness to the growing proportion of citizens confronting the double burden of communicable and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease) in LMICs. Together, we call for a cancer resolution. 

And, with what we expect to be its successful adoption, we must then call on national action. This is all the debate going on in the U.S. about 'Trumpcare' on steroids because this is about global health, universal heath coverage and sustainable development. The highest attainable standard of health is a human right, and affordable, available and accessible access to quality prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care of cancer and other NCDs is something we should all demand. With a cancer resolution, each of us, all of civil society can go to our national stakeholders and demand progress. And the whole world needs to see progress in reducing cancer mortality and morbidity and in improving patient outcomes.

Even if you do not work in this area, or do not know it through personal illness in your family, I believe you can recognize the truth in this. And, if you believe in it, become familiar with the communications package that we put together, especially the social media toolkit. Our work does not end when the cancer resolution is adopted. Instead, armed with these global commitments - signed, sealed, delivered - it is time to act. And, while most action will take place by the organisations we know - national cancer societies, patient groups, research institutes and clinical groups - we can engage meaningfully ourselves. Believe you me.

I delayed on writing this post because I have been living and breathing this resolution for the past months at work, but, at the same time, I know it is worth my personal commitment just as it is worth my professional commitment. Cancer is everywhere. In suffering and surviving friends. In news articles. On social media. In aging family members. In countries around the world. Cancer singles no one out. For change, for health, we must be aware, we must come together, and we must raise our voices for national action.

Isn't it strange to know that decisions that could affect your health will be made in Switzerland beginning next week? Isn't it powerful that you can play a part? Play a part.