By Gustavo S. Azenha, PhD, Lead Manager, American Cancer Society Global Health Department
According to a report launched here at the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group (LACOG) 2013 conference in Sao Paulo today, there will be 1.7 million cases of cancer diagnosed across Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030. Latin America faces a cancer epidemic unless governments act quickly to improve health care systems and treat the poor.
Non-government organizations (NGOs) focusing on cancer in Latin America have typically been founded by survivors motivated to help others and their primary focus has been de-stigmatizing cancer and giving hope to patients . Although NGOs have played an important role in increasing awareness, patient support, patient care and advocacy for policy change, the impact of advocacy groups has been rather limited in this region due to the lack of resources. Most of the advocacy groups find themselves filling a void and navigating patients to existing services or fighting in courts for access to treatments for individual patients.
However, advocacy groups in Latin America are increasingly aware of the need to change policy and have begun organizing themselves to take on a more comprehensive approach to cancer awareness and advocacy. The Society's capacity building, training, and grants programs in the region have played an important role in strengthening advocacy capacity and coalition building, leading to important policy impacts that have improved access to and quality of cancer prevention and care.