The importance of the AORTIC Advocacy Program

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Published: 8 Dec 2015
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Dr Folakemi Odedina - University of Florida, Gainesville, USA

Dr Odedina talks to ecancertv at AORTIC 2015 about the importance of the AORTIC Advocacy Program.

The Advocacy Program was initiated in 2011 and involves training people to be advocates who can educate and raise awareness on cancer throughout Africa. 

In 2013, the Master Advocates Program was initiated, which involves advocates from around the world providing their insight and skills to train others. Since conferences are only every two or three years, she notes an important aspect of the scheme which involves advocates who have undergone three years of training and mentoring training 100 people themselves over the next three years. This means that people don't have to wait for the next conference to receive training.

Cancer survivors in particular are encouraged to be advocates as they are "the true face of cancer", she says.

Furthermore, she speaks of the Cancer Control Plan which was also established by AORTIC in 2013, to address the problem of many countries not having a plan in place.


One thing that actually I would say stands out for me is the AORTIC Advocacy Program. So, as you know when we look at cancer in Africa one of the problems and one of the struggles that we have for cancer control in Africa is the fact that people really don’t see cancer as a big problem. You think about communicable disease is actually the problem that we have but with non-communicable diseases you are now having really a double whammy in Africa in which they are affected by communicable diseases as well as non-communicable diseases. So really I feel that for cancer to really get the recognition and to be addressed effectively advocacy is really the way to go, especially advocacy where you involve cancer survivors because they are the true face of cancer.

So, having realised that, one of the things that AORTIC now thought about was that, while we have some cancer advocates, a need that Africa has is to be able to train those advocates effectively to be able to go out and to be able to appropriately educate, advocate and raise awareness about cancer. So in 2011 AORTIC actually worked together with other colleagues to start the advocacy programme for AORTIC. The first session that we had, we had an all-day pre-conference that focusses on advocacy. We had about one hundred participants, we were not expecting so many of those participants. One of the things that came out from the 2011 conference was that there was now a need for us to have a train the trainer programme. It would be impossible for AORTIC to be able to train people just by conferences that we have every two years.

So the next time around in 2013 we implemented the Master Advocacy Program and the Master Advocacy Program is a train the trainer programme. We were able to get recognised programme faculty from actually essentially all over the world, within Africa and outside of Africa. Those advocates, our programme faculty then trained advocates. We sponsored between 15-20 advocates to be trained during each of the conferences and once the programme faculty trains them, it’s like a two-day training that is didactic and also experiential so they have to practise it and then they are mentored over two years. Then those advocates are required to go ahead and train at least one hundred people within the next two years. With that, since we implemented the programme in 2013 we’ve trained 31 Master Advocates and those Master Advocates have in turn trained over 2,000 people in the area of advocacy. So I think this is one of the most exciting programmes for AORTIC and I’m very excited about what AORTIC can do with this because we are essentially creating the manpower for advocacy in Africa.

The second programme that I’m involved in is the Cancer Control Program. Also in 2013 AORTIC worked very hard to develop a cancer control plan for Africa because we had the recognition that there are not many countries in Africa that have a cancer control plan. So it was very important for us to develop a cancer control plan that can be adapted. So that’s another session that I chaired and it’s really nice during that session to actually see quite a number of people that are presenting the cancer control efforts in their country.