APEC tracks progress in cervical cancer elimination

<p>Illustration - Cervical cancer examination <em>(ANTARA/HO-APEC Secretariat)</em></p>

Illustration - Cervical cancer examination (ANTARA/HO-APEC Secretariat)

JAKARTA – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), through its Health Working Group, announced a comprehensive report that measures the progress in cervical cancer elimination and the status of intervention programs to prevent and control the condition across the region.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women worldwide, with over 600,000 new cases and more than 340,000 deaths estimated in 2020, according to the report issued by the APEC Health Working Group and received on Monday.

APEC economies accounted for an estimated 38 percent of new cases and 35 percent of deaths globally.

The report builds on the 2021 roadmap that sets policy targets for member economies to bolster health capacity and enable women and girls to lead healthy and productive lives.

It outlines how member economies can achieve key objectives for cervical cancer elimination programs, such as implementing comprehensive, interoperable registries and establishing definitive strategies for referrals to secondary and tertiary care.

"There is no doubt that healthy women bring palpable benefits to our economy," chair of the APEC Health Working Group Narong Aphikulvanich affirmed.

"Most illnesses and deaths occur in women at an age when they are leading productive lives and contributing to society and the economy while attaining leadership positions and caring for their family members," Aphikulvanich said. "As such, cervical cancer has a reverberating effect on the social and economic welfare of families and society alike."

The World Health Organization's global strategy for cancer elimination aims to achieve three targets: fully vaccinating 90 percent of girls with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15, screening 70 percent of women between the ages of 35 and 45, and providing treatment to 90 percent of women diagnosed with cervical disease.

These targets will help avert more than 74 million new cases of cervical cancer and over 62 million deaths by 2120.

"As the only cancer that is both curable and preventable, cervical cancer presents an opportunity," Dr. Suleeporn Sangrajrang from the Thailand National Cancer Institute that oversees the project said.

"Strengthening interventions across the prevention and control continuum improves the health, well-being, and economic participation of women and girls. Tracking progress through a dashboard underscores the compelling case for investment," Sangrajrang said.

While most economies have implemented a strategy for cervical cancer elimination, whether through a comprehensive elimination program, ongoing development of a plan, or intervention strategies included in a broader cancer plan, there remain gaps in implementation.

"The data from the report indicates that most APEC economies are furthest along in meeting targets for cervical cancer treatment," Dr. Ted Trimble of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, who co-led the project, said.

"This reflects a traditional focus of health systems, but in order to reduce the disease incidence, increasing investment and uptake of vaccination and screening are an urgent imperative," Trimble added.

Recognizing the need for multi stakeholder collaboration to build technical capacity and strengthen health equity, the report also spotlights best practices from economies that promote partnerships between government, the private sector and civil society as well as interventions that target vulnerable and at-risk populations.

This project supports APEC member economies’ efforts towards realizing the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 that calls for efforts to ensure that the Asia-Pacific region is resilient to shocks, crises, pandemics and other emergencies by fostering the benefits and greater health and well-being for all, including micro, small and medium enterprises; women; and others, with untapped economic potential.

The APEC Aotearoa Plan of Action further calls for actions that can enable quality and equitable health access and outcomes for all, with a view to achieving universal health coverage, including strengthening health systems. (Antara)