Non-Communicable Diseases

IMA World Health Builds on Successes Against Burkitt’s Lymphoma in Tanzania

This blog post was written by Emily Esworthy, Communications Officer at IMA World Health, as part of GHC’s Member Spotlight Series. IMA’s mission is to build healthier communities by collaborating with key partners to serve vulnerable people. IMA World Health is a 2018 Global Health Council member.

Selemani Hamij is a quiet and thoughtful 4-year-old boy who was looking forward to his birthday in September. While most kids get excited about birthdays, it’s even more of a milestone for Selemani.

In January, he started complaining of pain in his mouth, and his mother saw that his gums appeared to be inflamed. She took him to a health center near their home in Kihaba, Tanzania, for treatment. There, health workers said they could treat the tooth, but they had to wait until the inflammation went down. “But the inflammation didn’t go down,” Selemani’s father, Hamis Omary Nyandikira, said.

Selemani Hamij was experiencing increasing swelling in his gums when he was admitted to Muhimbili’s pediatric cancer ward, which led to his diagnosis of Burkitt’s Lymphoma. (Photo courtesy of TLM.)

In March, when local treatment options failed to ease his pain and swelling, Selemani was referred to Muhimbili Hospital in the capital city of Dar es Salaam and was admitted to the dentistry ward. Again, treatment didn’t work; the swelling in his mouth grew, and Selemani was growing weaker by the day. That’s when health workers realized Selemani didn’t have a problem with his tooth: he had Burkitt’s Lymphoma or BL, an aggressive but treatable childhood cancer. He was transferred to Muhimbili’s pediatric oncology ward on March 22, into the care of Drs. Jane Kaijage and Trish Scanlan.

Angels of Oncology

IMA World Health has supported BL programs in Tanzania since 2001, working to advance treatment guidelines, train health workers on diagnosis and case management and provide treatment for over 4,500 children like Selemani. Today, IMA is pleased to partner with and support the work of these two visionary women who run Muhimbili’s pediatric oncology ward.

In Dr. Scanlan’s words, Dr. Kaijage is the “Founder of Pediatric Oncology in Tanzania.” She single-handedly ran Tanzania’s first pediatric cancer program at Ocean Road Cancer Institute from 2004 to 2007, and her work was instrumental in dramatically increasing the survival rates for BL patients from 10 percent to 75 percent in just two years.

Dr. Scanlan, an Irish pediatric oncologist, came to Tanzania to work with Dr. Kaijage at ORCI in 2007. In 2011 they moved operations to Muhimbili National Hospital, where they would have more space and resources, including access to specialists, surgeons, and CT and MRI machines to further advance the quality of care they could provide to the children. That year, Dr. Scanlan founded Their Lives Matter/Tumaini la Maisha or TLM, a nonprofit organization that works within and alongside Muhimbili’s pediatric oncology ward to fill gaps in both clinical and non-clinical services for patients and their families—from chemotherapy drugs and nutrient-rich smoothies to housing during treatment and educational programs for children and parents. In total, they treat about 500 new children for various cancers every year.

Quick Results

Today, Selemani is completing his treatment for BL and feeling healthy and strong. (Photo by Jennifer Bentzel/IMA World Health.)

Under the care of Dr. Kaijage, Dr. Scanlan and hospital staff, Selemani began chemotherapy immediately. As with most patients, Selemani and his father lived on the ward during the most intensive parts of treatment—for some families, that can last as long as a year. After six weeks, Selemani’s tumor was gone, and at the beginning of May he was able to go home. He returns to the hospital weekly for treatments, but today he is feeling much stronger and healthier and is expected to make a full recovery.

Looking Ahead

BL is associated with malarial infection, and thankfully its numbers are declining. “We are seeing less and less BL because the campaign against malaria is working,” Dr. Scanlan explained. And though BL progresses quickly and is fatal without treatment, increased awareness and availability of proper treatment has led to increasing rates of survival over the years.

For this reason, IMA is continuing to support treatment for children with BL, but we are also expanding our reach to other childhood cancers in concert with TLM and Muhimbili National Hospital.

Selemani’s father, Hamis Omary Nyandikira, says he is very happy with his son’s treatment and recovery after several months of scary and life-threatening symptoms. (Photo by Jennifer Bentzel/IMA World Health.)

“For over 17 years, IMA and our donors have contributed to very notable accomplishments in the treatment of Burkitt’s Lymphoma in Tanzania in various ways,” IMA President and CEO Rick Santos commented. “Engaging with TLM and Muhimbili means that we can leverage these successes to reach more children who need it most.”

TLM has ambitious goals that IMA is eager to support. Currently, TLM is working to empower the referral network in Tanzania by training regional hospitals in early diagnosis—still the number one challenge to survival rates—and by building the capacity for local treatment options so that families do not have to travel so far, or be separated for so long, during a child’s treatment.

Dr. Scanlan sums up TLM’s strategic plans by saying, “Our vision: get to every child.” IMA looks forward to partnering with TLM as we continue to work toward our own vision of health, healing and well-being for all.

#UNGA73: Making the UN Relevant to all People

This post was written by Victoria Rodriguez, Advocacy Associate at Global Health Council.

This year marked the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). UNGA73 focused on making the UN relevant to all people through shared responsibilities for peaceful and equitable global leadership. In conjunction, the third high-level meeting (HLM) on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and the first HLM on tuberculosis (TB) convened members states, experts from the field, and civil society to discuss ways to better support each community.

HLMs on TB and NCDs

Heads of State, government officials, and civil society members gathered to discuss capacity building around addressing TB, which in 2017 alone, attributed to 1.6 million deaths and NCDs, which account for 70% of deaths globally.

Mike Bloomberg, World Health Organization (WHO) Global Ambassador for NCDs and Injuries, addresses the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs during UNGA.

During the HLM on TB, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, Mark Green, called on the global community to accelerate shared responsibility to address and end TB via the Global Accelerator to End Tuberculosis initiative. The initiative will leverage resources from countries, the private sector, and community organizations in order to meet the UN target of treating 40 million people by 2022, with a focus on countries with the highest burden of TB. USAID will work directly with nearly 50 communities within TB priority countries to provide accessible services, resulting in increased diagnosis and treatment success rates.

Additionally, USAID made a $30 million commitment to strengthen and accelerate India’s efforts to end TB via the USAID-India End TB Alliance initiative. The initiative will convene leading experts in the public and private sectors to offer innovative approaches to combating TB in India.

Patient Advocate Hannah Amora speaking at a #UNGA side-event in NY.

The next day, the focus shifted to how the global community can come together to address NCDs. While the U.S. did not make any financial commitments to tackle NCDs, commitments to leverage innovation and partnerships to address this disease burden did arise.

A joint statement from GHC and the NCD Roundtable, a diverse coalition of over 60 organizations, commended efforts to bring forth discussion on NCDs with the recognition of mental health as a large contributor to the global burden of disease. The statement reiterated the importance of consistently engaging civil society in conversations that directly impact them, adopting a life-course approach that includes young people facing NCDs, and developing concrete targets with mechanisms for government accountability to push the conversation around NCDs forward.

GHC hopes to see the discussion come to fruition through tangible actions. Recognizing the importance of TB and NCDs was well noted, but concrete actions and financial commitments are necessary to truly address the burdens these diseases pose, and we need to ensure that these discussions are carried into next year’s HLM on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). UHC cannot be achieved without addressing these burdens.

Global Health Council (GHC) Participation

GHC had the privilege of inviting Hannah Amora, an advocate standing up for solutions to address congenital heart disease (CHD) and the mother of a child living with CHD, to UNGA73. As principal of her own consultancy company, she was thrown into the world of CHD with the birth of her second son. That journey led her to becoming a champion advocate and establishing her organization, Let it ECHO, to raise awareness of CHD and develop programs in her country of the Philippines.

Learn more about Hannah’s story, or read her contributor blog post.

Also, read the Devex Op-Ed penned by Hannah Amora, Patient Advocate, and Loyce Pace, GHC President and Executive Director advocating  for patient voices to be an important part of beating NCDs.

American Heart Association – A relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.

This blog post was written by John Meiners, Chief of Mission Aligned Businesses and Healthcare Solutions at the American Heart Association. From humble beginnings, the AHA has grown into the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. AHA is a 2018 Global Health Council member as part of our Member Spotlight series.

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, accounts for more than 17 million deaths per year… one third of all global deaths. By 2030, this figure is expected to reach approximately 23 million, with an estimated global cost more than a trillion dollars by 2030.

The American Heart Association believes everyone should live longer, healthier lives, and our international department focuses on that effort outside the U.S. We have been in the business of saving lives since 1924. The support of more than 30 million passionate supporters and volunteers, key partners and a global network of relationships helps us deliver lifesaving programs and training into hospitals, businesses, schools and homes.

Image credit: American Heart Association

Over 10 years ago, we began a concerted effort to address cardiovascular disease around the world, offering technical support, science exchange and training to governments, healthcare providers, hospital and pre-hospital systems, workplaces and communities.

Through groundbreaking science and programs targeting governments, healthcare providers, hospital and pre-hospital systems, workplaces and communities, our system of care approach—in coordination with local heart health advocates, societies and government leaders, drives global heart and brain health around the world, in many ways and through a variety of programs.

In support of a country’s health priorities, we provide our technical expertise and experience in developing both patient and public programs and campaigns to improve the quality of life and promote a culture of health. With our partners, we share the best in science with people around the world through our annual Scientific Sessions, International Stroke and 10 specialty conferences, and by supporting joint science sessions with other countries’ cardiology societies at their local meetings.

We create hundreds of educational programs and tools that help people improve their health, like My Life Check® – Life’s Simple 7 and Go Red For Women® (now in nearly 50 countries).

Photo Credit: American Heart Association

We help improve systems of care with programs like Get with the Guidelines (GWTG), addressing hospital and healthcare provider systems of care, and Saving Children’s Lives in Botswana, Tanzania, and India designed to empower community health workers with skills to reduce under five mortality in low to middle income (LMIC) areas.

We train 22 million people around the world annually – from advanced healthcare providers, corporate employees to new parents – in first aid, CPR and advanced life support. We work in coalition with key global partners like the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UN) and the World Economic Forum to establish targets. Then, with partners like the Global Health Council, World Heart Federation, Non-Communicable Disease Alliance, and sister cardiology societies and foundations we speak with one voice to advocate for sound health and public policies around prevention and control of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

In the last few weeks, we’ve worked with multiple partners to spread awareness around the importance of prevention, treatment, and the management of cardiovascular diseases. On September 29, the American Heart Association participated in the World Heart Federation’s annual World Heart Day recognition. Leveraging this year’s theme of My Heart, Your Heart, we asked our supporters to make a promise as an individual to get more active, say no to smoking or eat more healthily … as a healthcare professional to save more lives … or as a politician to implement an NCD action plan. A simple promise… for MY HEART, for YOUR HEART, for ALL OUR HEARTS.

In the lead up to the United Nations High Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases, we brought together global health leaders to address the world’s leading killers. In support of the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Care, the event included two panel discussions with patient advocates and global health experts focused on innovative practices and solutions aimed to deliver patient centered and quality health care. Patient stories and international examples of disruptive innovations at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels were shared with nearly 200 attendees. Panelists included Hannah Amora, supported by the Global Health Council, a committed mother and advocate for congenital health disease and global advocate for NCDs.

With a presence nearly 100 countries around the world, the American Heart Association is working to create a world where your risks for, and survival from heart disease and stroke are not determined by where you live.

Accelerating Efforts to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Around the World

This blog post was written by Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, and the nation’s leading advocacy organization helping to defeat cancer by educating the public, elected officials and candidates about cancer’s toll on public health. ACS CAN is a Global Health Council 2018 member.

Photo Credit: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

We have the opportunity to end deaths from cervical cancer. Through increasing access to preventive vaccinations and supporting diagnostic screening and testing which improve opportunities for the early detection and treatment of the disease, we can eliminate a cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 570,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, representing 6.6 percent of all female cancers. Almost 90 percent of deaths from cervical cancer will occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The opportunity to eliminate a cancer may sound like a herculean task, but coordinated efforts from governments, public health advocacy groups, NGOs, private industries and other interested parties can make it happen. That’s why the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, was happy to join forces with a broad cross section of stakeholders in New York City last month for an in-depth discussion of what’s being done to eradicate cervical cancer globally. ACS CAN and five other sponsoring organizations hosted the panel on September 26, just as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held its annual meeting.  The panel made  clear that while much work remains to be done, the appetite for action in this effort has never been greater. We have the resources and the tools; now it’s time to act.

ACS CAN’s advocacy efforts in the campaign to eliminate this cancer have largely focused on integrating HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer screenings into existing U.S. global health initiatives around the globe, particularly in Africa. Increasing access to preventive vaccinations, as well as screenings, will help stem the tide in the battle against cervical cancer. Because cervical cancer deaths are preventable, and interventions are proven and cost effective, we should be providing resources to protect women against this disease, just like we provide resources to save lives from AIDS. That’s why ACS CAN is so committed to engaging with federal policymakers on the issue, particularly by increasing education and awareness that global cervical cancer prevention is one of our mission priority issues.

It was a privilege to bring key stakeholders together for such an energized discussion on how we end this disease around the world. The meeting that was held in New York City on accelerating efforts to eliminate cervical cancer provided a comprehensive landscape of where things stand in the fight against cervical cancer. The global community needs to commit itself to this campaign and after last month’s meeting with such a diverse group of stakeholders, I’m confident we can take the action necessary to someday give every girl and women the peace of mind that cervical cancer won’t hold them back from leading a fulfilling life, regardless of where they live.

To learn more about ACS CAN’s efforts in eliminating cervical cancer worldwide, visit www.acscan.org/globalcervical.

About ACS CAN
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.  ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org

Washington, DC Advocacy Groups Commend National Governments for Committing to Reduce the Noncommunicable Disease Burden Worldwide

New York, NY (September 27, 2018) – Global Health Council (GHC) and the Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Roundtable, welcomes today’s High-Level Meeting (HLM) on NCDs and commends governments for reaffirming their commitments to reducing the burdens of NCDs, including the long overdue commitment to address mental health, and the recognition that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Ultimately, the value of this meeting will be demonstrated by the actions governments, donors, and civil society take to accelerate implementation.

“The burden of NCDs in low- and middle-income countries is growing, and it is critical that we stand with people living with NCDs to ensure they have access to necessary services and support,” stated Loyce Pace, Global Health Council President and Executive Director. “This convening offers an opportunity for countries to reaffirm their commitment to prevent and control NCDs, with a particular focus on affected communities with limited resources.”

GHC and the NCD Roundtable call for an emphasis on expanding coverage, to ensure that all people–including the poorest and most marginalized–benefit from prevention and are able to seek treatment and care. This will require greater multisectoral collaboration across public and private entities, as well as looking at other sectors, including technology and finance, to realize solutions. There must be clear targets and strong financial commitments to reach those implementation goals, requiring transparency and accountability from all stakeholders. This is not just a matter of principle; it is necessary to ensure sustainable economic development, as indirect and direct costs related to NCDs cripple productivity and threaten economies at all income levels.[i]

“This meeting is important because it will provide an opportunity for senior U.S. officials to join other leaders from around the world in recommitting to reducing the global burden of NCDs, which takes a toll on public health, on families and communities, and on economies,” stated Aaron Emmel, NCD Roundtable Co-Chair and Manager of Global Health Advocacy Initiatives at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In addition to adopting the commitments stated in the Political Declaration, we urge governments to continue to work towards:

1.) Concrete global and national targets with mechanisms for accountability. Targets and action steps should be aligned as closely as possible with those emerging from the HLM on Tuberculosis, which took place on September 26. We believe there is still more work to do in this regard.

2.) Meaningful civil society engagement. We strongly support OP16 in the Political Declaration and believe governments, civil society (including patient and family advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations, academia, health professional associations, and faith-based organizations), and for-profit companies all have a stake in reducing the burden of NCDs.

3.) Adoption of a life-course approach. The support for a life-course approach is significant and must be supported in programs and funding. Although there are no age restrictions in the UN Sustainable Development Agenda’s target for NCDs, the World Health Organization’s attention to premature deaths from NCDs focuses solely on the 30-70 age range. This excludes millions of children, adolescents and young people who live with or are affected by NCDs, and many die prematurely or suffer long-term disabilities as a result. We will not be able to meet our global commitments, or sustain them, until this is corrected.

“Just as importantly, this is a call to action—to build up our health systems and turn those commitments into practical, sustained work on the ground that reaches the people who have been left out for so long,” said Emmel. “What’s significant about this meeting is that governments are agreeing to new approaches: to tackling mental health, to recognizing the importance of access to prevention and health services starting with children and across people’s lives, to listening to patients and making them partners in care, and to paying attention to the role of our environments on health. These insights all require a new way of working, and there’s a way for every sector of society to be involved, including with adequate budgets and strong political will from our governments.”

Addressing and incorporating these priorities are critical to reducing the number of NCD-related deaths and achieving universal health coverage, especially in low- and middle-income countries. GHC and the NCD Roundtable look forward to working together in continued collaboration with public and private entities to help people lead healthier, longer lives and reduce the toll NCDs take on our global economy.

[i] Council on Foreign Relations. The Emerging Global Health Crisis: Noncommunicable Diseases in Low-and Middle-Income Countries. New York: Council on Foreign Relations. 2014. Page 38.

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About the NCD Roundtable

The NCD Roundtable is a diverse coalition of over 60 organizations, including NGOs representing development and humanitarian settings, professional associations, academic institutions and companies, united to raise awareness and address the rising incidence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the developing world. Learn more at www.ncdroundtable.org.

About Global Health Council
Established in 1972, Global Health Council (GHC) is the leading membership organization supporting and connecting advocates, implementers, and stakeholders around global health priorities worldwide. GHC represents the collaborative voice of the community on key issues; we convene stakeholders around key priorities and actively engage with decision-makers to influence global health policy. Learn more at www.globalhealth.org.