Role of AORTIC in dealing with rising cancer rates in Africa
North American Vice president of AORTIC
Could you tell us a little about AORTIC?
AORTIC is actually the premiere organisation that deals with cancer research and training in Africa. What the goal of AORTIC is is to be able to really address the issues of cancer in Africa through research and training. AORTIC does that through many initiatives that we have so one of the premiere initiatives is that we have a biannual conference that takes place in different areas in Africa every two years, odd years. Last year we actually had it in South Africa and this year it’s going to be in Morocco. That brings together scientists from all over the world to really focus on issues that have to deal with cancer care, cancer treatment and also deal with cancer control in Africa.
What about your upcoming meeting?
The upcoming meeting in Morocco is going to be in November, so November of 2015 and is going to really focus on the use of cancer control in Africa.
What are some of the issues with palliative care?
One of the issues is palliative care and AORTIC has really a very strong core group of people that are working in the area of palliative care in Africa. One of the initiatives that AORTIC has actually done is we developed a cancer control plan and that cancer control plan ranges over five years to really allow Ministries of Health in Africa to be able to use the plan that has been outlined to address the foremost cancers that are in Africa. There are so many issues that AORTIC does try to address. One of the key things we really try to do is the training, not only the training of scientists but the training of clinicians as well because we really want to make sure that people are well-trained and they are able to deal with the issues of cancer in Africa from the clinicians’ perspective as well as from the research perspective. Because that’s the only way to really be able to make progress.
Are there difficulties getting information to clinicians?
AORTIC partners with diverse organisations, including the UICC, the World Health Organisation, the American Cancer Society and other cancer organisations outside Africa to be able to work together and really create training programmes for clinicians as well. The training programmes not only occur when we have our every two year meetings, we also have regional programmes in partnership with these groups so that we can get physicians, not only physicians, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, to get them appropriately trained in the area of cancer care and cancer treatment. A big programme, or a big focus, that AORTIC really tries to do with the initiative is not only to get people or to get the African clinicians outside the country, to have them trained outside, what we often do is to partner with organisations to have that training done in Africa. By doing it that way you have more people that are trained and you do have more manpower.
Another area that I wanted to talk about is really the area of cancer advocacy in Africa. Because one of the things that we do realise is that you might have an outstanding clinician and have outstanding physicians and nurses but the problem is the knowledge of the people that are within Africa themselves. For you to be able to really make cancer a number one priority in Africa it becomes very important to have a good base of manpower of advocates in Africa. So about three years ago AORTIC actually started a workshop as part of these conferences to train advocates who can in turn train other advocates in Africa. So those advocates, they specialise in the area of cancer, patient education, outreach, survivorship and also in the area of policy so that really helps create the manpower that we need to make cancer a top priority in Africa.
How do you think cancer will increase in Africa?
You know what, it’s not really a matter of cancer increasing in Africa, I think it’s always been there. But because Africa has really focussed on infectious diseases we really didn’t get that it was such a huge problem. But now that we are really doing a better job of addressing infectious diseases people are living longer and they are getting to that age that they have the endemic of chronic diseases and cancer happens to be one of them. Commonly for those of us that do global cancer research we call having cancer in Africa like a running train and it’s going to get to the point that it’s just going to be really something that is uncontrollable unless we really start doing something right now because it’s getting to a stage that Africa is now being hit not only by communicable diseases but by non-communicable diseases as well and cancer is one of the big ones. So it’s really past its time, we really need to address it now otherwise Africa is going to be one of the great calamities of cancer, which we don’t want.