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Women’s Cancers and the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda

June 11, 2013 5 minute Read by Doyin Oluwole

In September 2000, world leaders from 191 nations signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration and committed to combatting poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women by 2015. Much progress has been made in maternal and child mortality, HIV/AIDS, education and poverty. Maternal deaths have declined by nearly 50 percent since 1990;  child mortality has been cut by more than a third over the same period.  These percentage reductions fall short of the targets of 75 percent reduction in maternal deaths and two thirds reduction in child deaths by 2015.  Enrollment in primary education in developing regions reached 89 percent in 2008, up from 83 percent in 2000; but the current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target of ensuring that children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015.  The proportion of people living in extreme poverty in developing regions dropped from 46 percent to 27 percent — on track to meet the target globally.  The global response to AIDS has demonstrated tangible progress toward the achievement of MDG 6 of halting and beginning to reverse, by 2015, the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Despite this progress, it is clear that the world will not reach all set goals for eradication of hunger, universal primary education, elimination of gender disparity, maternal mortality, child mortality, malaria and tuberculosis, and global partnership for development by the target date. This begs the question, where are we headed post-2015?  World leaders and the global health community are beginning to chart that course. 

In May, global health leaders representing over 150 countries met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for two major conferences: The Global Forum on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Women Deliver.  A key area of discussion at both conferences was the fight against women’s cancers. 

At Women Deliver, Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer of GAVI, challenged participants to,

“let it not be that where a girl/woman lives is what determines whether a girl/woman lives or dies.”

During the same week, the World Health Assembly (WHA) convened in Geneva and adopted the Global Action Plan (GAP) on Non-Communicable Diseases for 2013 – 2020. The vision of GAP is a world free of avoidable non-communicable diseases. Its goal is to reduce the burden of preventable non-communicable diseases through collaborations and partnerships among sectors, nations and regions.  Such efforts will enable individuals and communities to grow and prosper.  Specific cervical and breast cancer indicators include:

  • Prevention of cervical cancer through screening (visual inspection with acetic acid [VIA] & linked with timely treatment of pre‐cancerous lesions)
  • Vaccination against human papillomavirus, as appropriate if cost‐effective and affordable, according to national programs and policies
  • Population‐based cervical cancer screening linked with timely treatment
  • Population‐based breast cancer and mammography screening (50‐70 years) linked with timely treatment

Note: Screening is meaningful only if the capacity for diagnosis, referral and treatment is simultaneously improved.

Women’s cancers impact not only health, but development, equality and women’s empowerment. Cancer programming thus involves a variety of stakeholders, ranging from the community to industry, from the laboratory to public health programs, from policy makers to the greater international community. Investments in comprehensive cervical cancer care from “vaccine to morphine” are not just for cervical cancer but can also be leveraged to support interventions for other diseases as well.  For every 1000 girls vaccinated against HPV infection, 13 lives are saved. These 13 girls have an opportunity to be educated, to earn a decent living and contribute to national and global economic development.

The WHA, the Global Forum on Cervical Cancer Prevention, and Women Deliver called upon all nations to advocate for and invest in women’s cancers, enhance health systems, promote accountability, strengthen national capacity for implementation and research, and strengthen efforts in public-private-partnerships.

Partnerships like Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon close gaps, share and commit to a common vision, and promote sustainability and accountability. Women’s cancers are at the forefront of global discussions about the post-2015 development agenda, and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is proud to be blazing the trail.

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