Professor Alistair McGuire spoke at the Scientific Forum organized by the International Atomic Energy Authority (Atoms for Peace and Development) in September 2016 addressing the issue of investment in Cancer Care within developing countries.
He noted that a radical increase in spending on cancer control is essential if the international community is to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development target of reducing cancer-related deaths by a third in 15 years.
Such investment requires public financing of resilient health systems and shift in the global R&D system so that new health technologies are affordable to all who need them. In an earlier talk at the IAEA’s Scientific Forum he had considered the achievability of attaining these UN Sustainable Development targets.
Investing in cancer control, including radiotherapy and access to diagnostics and effective medicines, generates sustained benefits while reducing the strain on health systems in the longer term, said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in his opening address to the Forum.
By 2030 there will likely be 21.6 million new cancer patients a year, almost double the number from just a few years ago, said Dazhu Yang, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation.
Professor Alistair McGuire argued that spending on cancer control should be seen as an investment, not a cost. He cited a recent report published by The Lancet Oncology, which concluded that scaling up radiotherapy capacity from current levels could lead to saving of 26.9 million life-years in low-income and middle-income countries over the lifetime of the patients who received treatment. The expected economic benefits of this investment in radiotherapy would be $365.4 billion, the study said.
A further recent study concluded that cost effective cancer prevention, early detection and treatment strategies could save the lives of up to 3.7 million people per year, most of them in low and middle income countries. The economic value of the productive, healthy years that could be gained is estimated in the range of US $331 billion to $451 billion.
Unfortunately, financing for fighting non-communicable diseases, including cancer, in developing countries is well below actual need. It makes up only a small proportion of all development assistance in health, noted Professor McGuire said.
Scaling up investment in healthcare and enhanced cancer control programmes will also help address the increasing impoverishment of patients and their families due to loss of household income and exorbitant spending on health expenses many cannot afford.
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