The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the global healthcare sector is immense. People are devouring all available information and realigning household expenses to protect themselves from the disease. With much attention devoted to fighting the virus, many tend to forget that there are other deadly diseases that also deserve equal, if not greater, consideration.
The World Health Organization reported that prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases like cancer have been severely disrupted globally. Cancer-related services provided by different countries have been partially, if not completely, disrupted.
Tita Hope Talks
Cognizant of the fact that cancer remains as one of the greatest healthcare challenges for Filipinos, MSD in the Philippines, through its cancer advocacy campaign Hope From Within (HFW), is taking an initiative to remind the public that with or without pandemic, cancer care, most importantly access to proper information and quality care, should continue to be prioritized.
To advocate for better access to information and quality care for cancer, HFW is conducting a series of Cancer Care Access dialogues called Tita Hope Talks. Broadcast journalist and HFW ambassador Nina Corpuz, a.k.a Tita Hope, serves as moderator, as key opinion leaders from various sectors share their insights on how to improve cancer care delivery to Filipino patients and their families, and to help them navigate their cancer journey even during the pandemic.
There will be four talks scheduled for the entire year, focused on different topics about progress in cancer care. The first part of the series is titled “Usapang Cancer:Access sa Kaalaman at Impormasyon”.
Access to Information
In the first Tita Hope Talks, IQVIA Philippines general manager Mylene Rodriguez discussed the results of the MSD-commissioned online cancer survey (n=1,000) and its significance to local healthcare.
One of the key findings of the survey revealed that 2 out of 5 Filipinos have personal experiences with cancer either as patients or through family, friends or colleagues diagnosed with the disease. The magnitude of the disease highlights the importance of sharing responsibility between the government and the entire health stakeholder community in carrying the burden of cancer.
Also part of the panel is HFW ambassador and veteran actress Susan Africa who shared her personal journey as a cancer carer for her late husband Spanky Manikan. Ms. Africa’s story emphasized that carers play a critical role in the healing journey of a patient. It can be a financially, emotionally and mentally taxing job; and those who have personally experienced this duty are the best source of information as well as inspiration to those who are treading the same path.
Lastly, former Department of Health Undersecretary Dr. Madeleine Valera put forward the need to enable patient access to a wider range of treatment options, based on results from the Cancer Game Plan, a health impact projection model or research commissioned by MSD that uses local data sets to project cancer outcomes and reveal potential benefits of innovative treatment options.
The report also indicates that innovative treatments are expected to bring new hope for select cancer patients as it may help them to further enjoy added years to their life, progression-free life years, quality-adjusted life years, and overall improved health gains between five- and ten-fold.
More Hopeful Tomorrows
The enactment of landmark legislation National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) is a game changer for Filipino cancer patients and families. The law aims to give better support to cancer patients, especially those from the underserved, through every step of their cancer patient journey – from diagnosis, to getting access to treatment options, and to getting post-cancer care.
Despite this monumental move in Philippine healthcare, there is more work needed to help unlock the potential of the country in the realm of cancer care.
That is why advocacy campaigns such as MSD’s Hope From Within is one with the cancer community in seeking to expand access to quality cancer care for all Filipinos through provision of timely, relevant and credible information, and in amplifying calls, for increased multi-sectoral support including implementation and funding from NICCA.