Life Expectancy in Slovenia 
Slovenia is a small, coastal country in Southeastern Europe and is an average country in the EU by many measures. However, the country’s life expectancy is higher than many of its neighbors, despite commonly held unhealthy habits. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Slovenia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Slovenia

  1. As of 2020, the average life expectancy at birth is 81.4 years. Men live to age 78 years on average while women live to about 84 years. This is significantly higher than Slovenia’s neighbors, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, and the EU as a whole. A rapid increase in life expectancy at birth in recent years is likely the cause.
  2. Between 1950 and 2020, life expectancy in Slovenia rose by more than 15 years. The average age of death in 1950 was only 64.7 years.
  3. Life expectancy is greater in southwestern Slovenia than in northeastern Slovenia. The Mediterranean lifestyle in the south is thought to account for some of the difference.
  4. Mortality from cancer is higher than the OECD average. 243 people per 100,000,000 die from cancer, above the average of 201. It ranks third highest for all OECD countries. One reason could be poor cancer management among men. The most common cause of death from cancer is lung cancer. However, the cancer mortality rate has been falling in recent decades, in part due to a decrease in smoking among men.
  5. One study largely attributed the rise in life expectancy in Slovenia to a proportional decline in deaths from circulatory diseases and cancer during that time. There were greater gains for older adults than for adults of working age. Like many countries in the world, Slovenia is expected to face new socioeconomic challenges due to an aging population.
  6. 92 percent of people believe they know someone they can turn to in times of need. This fact might be one of the biggest reasons behind the relatively high life expectancy in Slovenia. A study published in 2002 that followed adults from 18-95 showed that those who had adult children or living parents saw an increase in life expectancy. 
  7. The suicide rate in Slovenia is declining. It still remains high, but it’s at a much lower level than it was 15 years ago when the number of deaths attributed to suicide was 529 people per year. In 2014, 388 people committed suicide which was the first time that the number of deaths fell below 400 in four decades. NGOs have aided in suicide prevention by offering psychological assistance and creating suicide helplines. Ozara is one such organization. They provide psychosocial support for people with chronic mental illness so that they can reintegrate into society.
  8. Compared to the OECD average, Slovenians are less satisfied with life. Despite having a high life expectancy, Slovenians are not particularly satisfied with their lives on average. Wealth inequality is high, with the top 20 percent earning four times as much as the bottom 20 percent.
  9. Smoking and alcohol consumption in Slovenia are greater than average19 percent of Slovenians smoke every day, and it has the fifth-highest alcoholism rate, both of which may contribute to the country’s high, though falling, rate of cardiovascular disease. In 2014, 50 NGOs, including No Excuses Slovenia, prepared amendments to the Restriction of the Use of Tobacco Act called The Slovenian Youth Manifesto on Tobacco, showing that young people are very active in trying to solve Slovenia’s tobacco problem.
  10. They exercise more than the OECD average. Exercise is promoted and made accessible by universities. The people of Slovenia also eat more fruits and vegetables than average. In 2010 the Slovenian government passed legislation for a new School Meals Program that made it mandatory for school lunches to follow dietary guidelines for healthy nutrition. Regular exercise and healthy diets might be helping to balance out the negative effects of some of the bad habits held by Slovenians. 

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Slovenia show that the country has a number of issues to address in the area of health. However, life expectancy in this country is relatively high. With increased awareness of the mental and physical health challenges the country faces, Slovenia’s life expectancy will likely continue to increase.

– Caleb Carr
Photo: Pixabay

Childhood Cancer in Developing Countries
Although people have made significant progress in treating communicable diseases in childhood, one cannot say the same about reducing childhood cancer in developing countries. In fact, many did not consider it a public health problem in the developing world until recently. The mortality rate is currently an alarming 80 percent in developing countries with 160,000 new cases each year. Tragically, many could receive treatment from generic medications if they receive the right foreign aid according to Republican Congressman Michael McCaul. Children with cancer living in low to middle-income countries are four times as likely to die of their disease as children living in high-income countries. 

Challenges Ahead

In order to reduce morbidity rates from childhood cancer in developing countries, people on the ground will face significant challenges. U.S. researchers reported that the median cost for 15 different generic drugs was only $120 in South Africa and $654 in the U.S., yet many people cannot even afford the lowest drug prices. The reason is that the drugs are actually more expensive when compared to per capita GDP (the average person’s total economic output). In Australia, generic drug prices were 8 percent of per capita GDP compared to 33 percent in India. The question of how many people will be unable to receive treatment despite lower drug prices remains. Another challenge is that many children will have already reached the late stages of the disease and perhaps even have comorbid HIV as with the Burkitt lymphoma trial in Malawi. The trial failed to reach two-thirds the cure rate of developing countries despite patients receiving intensive chemotherapy treatment.

New Legislation Passed

Yet there is hope. The U.S. House of Representatives has recently passed a bill to address the issue. McCaul and Democrat Congressman Eliot Engel introduced the Global Hope Act of 2019 and demonstrated that the two parties are still capable of swiftly passing bipartisan legislation despite increased polarization in the country.

The congressmen introduced the bill on December 10, 2019, and the House passed the bill on January 27, 2020. The bill aims to improve the survival rate of children living with cancer in developing countries. It will support the Global Health Organization’s initiative to increase the survival rate of children with cancer to 60 percent by 2030.

How it Works

One of the main focal points of the bill is improving the availability and cost of existing medicines and developing new ones. People have already developed much of the infrastructure from previous aid directed toward communicable diseases, but the bill seeks to enhance infrastructure as well. As outlined by the foreign affairs committee’s press release, the bill will help increase the survival rate of children with cancer by:

  • Supporting efforts to train medical personnel and develop healthcare infrastructure to diagnose, treat, and care for children with cancer
  • Leveraging private sector resources to increase the availability of cancer medicines
  • Improving access to affordable medicines and technology that are essential to cancer treatment
  • Coordinating with international partners to expand research efforts to develop affordable cancer medicines and treatments

Childhood cancer is the second leading cause of death in childhood worldwide, second only to accidents. Though the issue remained in the shadow of communicable diseases for years, people are starting to take notice. The new legislation passed in the house addresses many of the barriers to a high survival rate for childhood cancer in developing countries.

– Caleb Carr
Photo: United Nations

cancer in developing countriesMajor progress has been made in recent years in combating leading threats to global health such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, there is a lesser-discussed global health problem that is growing in developing nations. Eight million cancer cases across the world occur in developing countries, accounting for 57 percent of all reported cancer cases worldwide. Ami Bhatt and her coworkers at the School of Medicine at Stanford University are working to change these numbers by reducing cancer in the developing world.

Background on Ami Bhatt

In 2009, Bhatt became aware of the growing danger of cancer in developing countries through her work at Harvard University. She knew that something had to be done. She started a nonprofit with another fellow in her program, Franklin Huang, who became equally as passionate about this topic. The organization, called Global Oncology (GO), has launched numerous programs and projects since its start in 2012. All of them are aimed at creating better care for cancer patients in low and middle-income countries through new technology, education and medical training. In 2014, Bhatt started her work at the Stanford School of Medicine. Since then she has mobilized her coworkers to further explore the pandemic of cancer in the developing world and find ways to combat it.

Educational and Tracking Resources

Working with a design firm in sub-Saharan Africa, Bhatt was able to develop materials with simple messaging and visuals to help patients in developing nations understand potential treatment options, side effects and complications. Many patients in these low-income areas drop out of treatment because they do not fully understand the process of treatments like chemotherapy. These materials are aimed at solving this problem and keeping more patients in treatment. They are currently being used in cancer wards across Rwanda, Botswana and Haiti.

GO also partnered with the National Cancer Institute to develop an interactive map of cancer researchers and program managers across the world. This resource is the first of its kind and has increased interaction and collaboration between those working in the field. The map gives experts equal access to contemporary knowledge and technology being used to combat cancer in the developing world.

Work in Nigeria and Rwanda

In 2017, Bhatt and her colleagues at GO collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to identify two hospitals that could make a huge impact by taking their cancer care programs to the next level. The northern portion of Nigeria is Muslim-majority while the southern area is Christian majority. For this reason, they chose ABUTH hospital in the north and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in the south.

The programs implemented at these hospitals were aimed toward outlining potential opportunities for hospital faculty to carry out improvements in their cancer programs. After this program had been in place for a few months, Bhatt and a few of her colleagues traveled to Nigeria to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. This formed the foundation for the recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Health that were included in the Nigerian 2018-2023 National Cancer Control Plan.

While teaching classes to physicians in Rwanda, Bhatt discovered that patients with leukemia were being treated with hydroxyurea, a drug that only prolongs a patient’s life for about five years. She found out that the country had lost free access to an alternate drug called Gleevec, which can prolong someone’s life for up to 30 years. Bhatt and her Stanford colleagues spent weeks lobbying the Rwandan Ministry of Health as well as the drug manufacturer to restore free access to Gleevec in Rwanda.

Sixty-five percent of those who die from cancer yearly live in developing countries. Ami Bhatt recognized the existence and implications of this statistic in 2009. She has made it her life’s work to battle cancer in the developing world ever since. As more and more people recognize cancer as a major problem in the developing world, Bhatt and her team get closer and closer to winning the battle.

Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

eight Facts About Breast CancerBreast cancer is a deadly disease caused by cells that grow out of control in the breast. It mostly occurs in women, but men are also at risk of developing the disease as well. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and is one of the leading cancers in the world, and has only gotten worse over the years in many countries. Here are eight facts about breast cancer in developing countries.

8 Facts About Breast Cancer

  1. 600,000 women and men died from breast cancer around the world last year. That is one death every 50 seconds, and since 2012 it has been the leading cause of death from cancer in all of the developing countries.
  2. New breast cancer cases around the world have doubled in the last 30 years. There were two million cases in just 2018 alone. Most cases came from areas in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
  3. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in 140 out of 184 countries. Lack of awareness has proven to be the main reason why women with the disease are often too late to treat it.
  4. Five percent of global spending on cancer is aimed at developing countries. Breast cancer accounted for $26 billion needed in developing countries, with the money going towards healthcare, screening and education.
  5. In developing countries, breast cancer is detected in the later stages. Women do not usually detect it until it reaches Stage III, but it is harder to treat once it reaches that stage due to how much the disease has already spread around the breast. Little access to treatment and lack of awareness are the main reasons why it is too late before the patient is treated. 48 percent of women in Latin America had Stage III breast cancer before they found out.
  6. Since 2016, 70 percent of breast cancer deaths occurred in developing countries. Women have longer lifespans and live a better lifestyle in the more developed countries, which can play a factor as to why women in developing countries can develop the disease earlier.
  7. Breast cancer diagnosis in Australia number 95 per 100,000 people. Australians also have a 10 percent lifetime risk. Genetic mutation and family history are the main reasons why Australia currently has the highest incident rates in the world.
  8. Most breast cancer deaths occur in women 50 years and older. The risk of breast cancer increases with age due to abnormal changes in the cells as someone gets older.

NGOs Helping

The disease has taken many lives and is still the most common cancer in women and in developing countries. However, there are organizations dedicated to stopping the disease for good. The Susan G. Komen foundation is the leading breast cancer organization in the world that is currently using their donations toward research and education for all women with breast cancer. Another example is The Young Survival Coalition, an organization that focuses on treating women under 40 who develop the disease. It uses the donations toward research and life improvement for women who have it and who survived it. All these facts point towards a bright future for the fight against breast cancer.

– Reese Furlow
Photo: Pixabay

Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

Thousands of Nigerians die every year from cancer. Though deaths are mostly preventable, Nigeria lacks the infrastructure, equipment and health care professionals necessary to treat its cancer victims. Furthermore, the high cost of cancer treatment prevents many Nigerians from seeking it soon enough to cure it. Yet the Nigerian government is improving Nigeria’s cancer treatment and making it easier for Nigerians to access it. This article will reveal the future of cancer treatment in Nigeria by first explaining why so many Nigerians die from cancer, and then listing the solutions that people are proposing and implementing to eradicate it.

Cancer in Nigeria

The World Health Organization identifies cancer as the second leading cause of death around the world. It is responsible for 70 percent of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. This is more than the number of deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In Nigeria, around 72,000 Nigerians die each year from cancer among the more than 100,000 cancer diagnoses. The two most common, and often treatable, forms of cancer in Nigeria are breast and cervical cancer.

Specifically, Nigerian men suffer from mostly prostate, colorectal, liver, stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nigerian women suffer from mostly breast, cervical, colorectal, ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian women, 71,022, is greater than the number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian men, 44,928.

Reasons for Nigerian Cancer Deaths

First and foremost, many Nigerians are unable to reach physicians who can diagnose and treat their cancer. Additionally, when they are able to get the treatment they need, their cancer is in such an advanced state that any treatment they receive fails to save their lives. Thirdly, Nigeria has not had a national plan to control cancer or a national registry to track trends about who has cancer and where they live for most of its history.

In addition, Nigerians often do not have the money to pay for cancer treatment. On top of this, many Nigerians who suffer from cancer do not receive enough information about cancer to motivate them to seek immediate medical attention.

There are also infrastructure limitations as Nigeria currently only has four functional cancer treatment centers, which is not enough to treat the immense number of Nigerian citizens who suffer from cancer. Furthermore, in a population of more than 200 million, there are only nine radiation therapy machines. At any time, some or all of these machines might be broken, sometimes for months. Nigeria additionally lacks well-equipped treatment centers and an adequate amount of qualified health professionals.

Goals with Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

The current state of cancer treatment in Nigeria might look dreadful, however, Nigerians are making great efforts to improve the care it provides to Nigeria’s cancer victims with the help of partners like the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society. On April 13, 2015, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health launched the Cancer Control Plan (CCP). This plan sets the course for the Ministry of Health to improve cancer treatment in Nigeria from 2018 to 2022. The goals included in the CCP that Nigeria intends to reach to improve its response to cancer are:

  • ” Increased access to screening and detection of cancer
  • Improved access to quality and cost-effective cancer treatment
  • Improved end-of-life care for patients and their families
  • Increased public awareness about the disease
  • Improved data collection and the process of spreading information
  • Effective coordination of cancer resources for Nigeria”

Progress

A major stepping-stone in the advancement of cancer treatment in Nigeria is the construction of the world-class Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Advanced Cancer Treatment Centre. This facility emerged to ensure that the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer are available to many more Nigerians and is equipped with the most innovative cancer therapy solutions from Varian Medical Systems. This facility can treat 100 patients a day and provide more advanced training for 80 health care professionals. Predictions determine that this facility will serve as a model for future cancer research facilities throughout West Africa.

Even though Nigeria has a long way to travel to create a cancer treatment system on par with those of high-income countries like the United Kingdom or Switzerland. The goals listed above will take a great effort to reach. Yet, the fact that Nigeria is already making progress towards advancing its cancer treatment system proves the bright future of cancer treatment in Nigeria is already here.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr


The UN’s 2016 High-Panel report on global access to medicine opens with an inspiring message: “Never in the past has our knowledge of science been so profound and the possibilities to treat all manner of diseases so great.” It is hard to debate that recent advancements in targeted cancer therapy and HIV drug development indicate a bright future for the Rx world. The potential for positive change may go unrealized, however, if access to medicine remains limited. To serve the 3.5 billion people without basic medical services, along with the 100 million who find themselves in extreme poverty because of high medical costs, governments and organizations have to confront the complex economic forces undermining global access to medicine. This article will discuss two such forces and consider how international actors have responded.

Too Big to Heal?

Economic orthodoxy holds that the equilibrium of a product’s supply and demand will determine its price, but medication prices do not adhere to this rule. This is because firms in the pharmaceutical industry possess the key to market distortion. Monopoly power or the ability for firms with outsized market shares to raise prices without experiencing a corresponding drop in sales. Pharmaceutical companies tend to obtain monopoly power for several reasons, such as:

  1. High entry costs, especially those associated with research and development. This excludes smaller, potentially disruptive firms from the market.
  2. The continuation of company consolidation. In the past 20 years, a group of 60 different pharmaceutical companies shrank to a mere 10.
  3. Large profits. Profits are huge, with the 10 highest-earning companies netting a 20 percent profit margin on average. This allows these companies to fortify their already-large market share. Most importantly, once a company patents a drug, it holds exclusive title to the production and distribution of that drug for 20-25 years.

During that period, no lower-priced, generic substitutes can enter the market. Equipped with this uncontested control, these companies can charge high prices for their products, as those who need them will have no other choice but to bear the cost. Yet some, especially individuals in poorer countries dealing with diseases like Hepatitis C and cancer, simply cannot afford these costs.

There are many individuals and corporations who are attempting to solve this problem, however. For example, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a pharmaceutical company based in London, England, is trying to put an end to exorbitant prices for prescription drugs in low-income countries. In March 2016, it announced that it would not seek patent protection for its drugs in 50 of the world’s poorest countries. By doing this, the company opened the path for smaller companies to bring lower-priced, generic versions of their drugs to the market. So far, the approach has been effective, earning GSK the top spot in the 2018 Access to Medicine Index. The positive publicity it receives from the ranking will hopefully motivate other companies to follow suit.

R&D Incentives

While the economics of monopoly power generates the problem of overpricing, the incentives of research and development make it such that many medicines needed in low-income countries go underproduced. As mentioned above, patents spell large rewards, but it costs $800 million on average for a company to obtain one and to bring a drug to the market. This pressures companies to develop the drugs that are most likely to produce a substantial financial return. Additionally, as the UN High-Panel notes in its report, this means that widespread, treatable diseases can oftentimes go unaddressed. For example, antimicrobial-resistant viruses and parasites threaten to kill as many as 10 million people annually by 2050, yet drug companies worldwide have developed virtually no new antibiotics in the past 25 years. In the absence of this innovation, however, public-private R&D partnerships have proven to be a successful substitute. The Global Fund is an example as it has saved 27 million people that malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis threatened by raising money from both public and private sources and collaborating with domestic task forces and commissions.

A Reconceptualization

Economic barriers to improve global access to medicine remain, but more and more people are starting to conceptualize the problem as an ethical one rather than an economic one. However, ensuring access to health care and maintaining market efficiency are not mutually exclusive. For example, cost-efficient drug production techniques are necessary to disseminate medicines at reduced prices. But other times “policy incoherencies,” as the UN High-Panel report calls them, force decision-makers to choose between the promotion of economic innovation and the provision of public health. Thanks to leading companies like GlaxoSmithKline and compassionate organizations like the Global Fund, the international community is starting to opt for the latter.

James Delegal
Photo: Flickr

Andy Murray's Philanthropy

Scottish tennis player Andy Murray is a 14-time titleholder of ATP Tour Masters 1000, a three-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. He has been able to amass a good amount of money through tournament earnings and sponsorships, and with this, he has been able to help those who need it most. Andy Murray’s philanthropy is based mainly on his partnership with UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador, with which he has taken on many projects; the main ones being related to helping Syrian refugees and improving ways to fight diseases like malaria and cancer.

Andy’s Aces

One of Murray’s first acts of charity as a UNICEF ambassador was by simply playing tennis. In 2015, he vowed to donate £50 every time he hit an ace during his matches throughout the year. He kept his promise and donated over £80,000 with the help of sponsors and fans who matched his contribution, and with this money, UNICEF has been able to send help to over 16,000 children in Syria.

Malaria No More

Since 2009, Murray has been a spokesperson and contributor to Malaria No More alongside retired soccer player, David Beckham. This disease is one of the deadliest for children, killing one child every 30 seconds, according to the UNICEF website, but it is treatable with proper medication. “It costs less than a pack of tennis balls to treat and help save a life,” Murray said. With the birth of his daughter, he has been able to put himself in the shoes of parents less fortunate than himself, and this is why part of Andy Murray’s philanthropy is focused on making sure that malaria is eradicated completely.

Rally for Bally

Following the death of Elena Baltacha, a British tennis player who lost her fight against cancer, Murray created a series of exhibition-type matches where he was joined by other famous players, both active and retired, to raise awareness and money to fight cancer. Some of the well-known faces include Martina Navratilova, James Ward, Petra Kvitová, Agnieszka Radwańska and Ross Hutchins. Hutchins also happens to be one of Murray’s closest friends as well as a cancer survivor himself and was able to join him on the court for the first time since his recovery.

Hutchins was an inspiration for Murray; he claims that when he heard about Hutchins’ diagnosis, he wasn’t able to fully comprehend what his friend had to go through. “And just like that, for the first time, I found myself confronted with the reality of cancer. Here is that reality: Cancer doesn’t discriminate,” Murray wrote. The event now takes place every year and has managed to raise over £80,000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, an organization that promotes life-saving research to help cancer victims across the globe.

Andy Murray Live

Andy Murray Live was created as a series of fundraiser matches in Scotland, where Murray invites some of the best-known players in the world like Roger Federer to play against him. Murray is always thinking of his country, and that is why, aside from his contributions with UNICEF, he also donates half of the proceeds from his Andy Murray Live events to local charity groups like Sunny Sid3 Up, an organization in Glasgow that helps people in need, not only in Scotland where they support low-income communities, but also in Sri Lanka where they work to build shelters and promote children’s education.

The life of an athlete is by no means simple or easy, and there are a lot of sacrifices to be made as well as mastering the mind and body to perform on the court, even during stressful times. Andy Murray knows this better than most, as he himself has had to recover from injuries and surgeries which have currently placed him at the very bottom of the rankings in past years. Despite this, he will continue to lend a helping hand to those who need it most and fight for many causes, especially children’s health and education.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

JCWO and FJC Provide Health Care
Latin America’s abundance of natural resources has been the main source of income for its economies. Production of copper, oil, coffee, sugar and other valuable commodities have made countries in Latin America key players in the global marketplace. Yet, the region faces significant economic challenges and a large part of its population lives in extreme poverty today. Venezuela is a clear example of this. Even with some of the largest oil reserves in the world, its economy has suffered; as of 2018, inflation was at 130,060 percent and its economy shrunk by 22.5 percent since 2017. Infrastructure and public services have deteriorated, and health care has been one of the most affected sectors. The declining state of public health institutions affects the most underprivileged Venezuelan populations since they cannot have access to proper care and treatment. To fill the demand for accessible, reliable medical care, many non-governmental organizations have come to action to help patients in need across the country. In particular, the Jacinto Convit World Organization (JCWO) and Fundación Jacinto Convit (FJC) provide health care to the needy relating to diagnosing and developing treatments for cancer patients.

The Problem

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, rates of extreme poverty rose from 9.9 percent of the Latin American population to 10.2 percent. Access to proper health care is of the utmost importance to all populations, especially those in economic trouble. The survival rate for cancer is highest when those affected receive an early, precise diagnosis. Yet, in many countries in Latin America, the public health care system cannot provide this. This is where organizations like the Jacinto Convit World Organization come into play.

JCWO and FJC

Many organizations around the world, such as the Jacinto Convit World Organization in the United States and Fundación Jacinto Convit in Venezuela, are committed to creating scientific and health-centered programs that target the most underserved and underprivileged populations, mainly in developing countries. The sister organizations received their names from the late Dr. Jacinto Convit, a leading medical researcher and humanist who introduced vaccines and treatments that helped poverty-stricken communities. 

In an interview with Ana Federica Convit, the president of JCWO and granddaughter of Dr. Convit, she described the need to promote scientific solutions and health assisting programs in poor developing countries where patients have limited access to health services. She notes that “JCWO and FJC work to improve the lives of underprivileged and underserved populations that lack access to adequate diagnostics and innovative or even conventional cancer treatments.” The Molecular Diagnostics Program has already reached, “eight of the main health centers in Venezuela,” and outreach continues to spread across the country and eventually to other nations of the region that can benefit from this program.

The Two Programs

JCWO and FJC provide health care to the needy by focussing on providing cancer patients with access to specialized tests through the Molecular Diagnostics Program (MDP) and personalized therapeutic options through the Cancer Immunotherapy Program (CIP). Currently, the MDP has performed 1,950 diagnoses for 390 pediatric and adult patients, indirectly benefiting 1,560 relatives of patients. For the CIP, stage IV breast cancer patients will receive a new therapeutic vaccine in upcoming clinical trials.

The MDP “provides free access to early, precise and personalized diagnosis in various types of cancer and infectious diseases such as HIV.” The program performs highly specialized tests like genetic alterations that medical professionals do not offer anywhere else in Latin America. To date, the program has treated more than 390 patients mainly in extreme poverty.

The CIP “works on advancing the development of a personalized breast cancer immunotherapy designed by Dr. Convit during his last years of life.” This treatment aims to use the patient’s immune system to attack tumors and prevent the disease from recurring. This treatment is currently in process to begin clinical trials. Ana Federica describes the importance of this therapeutic vaccine, saying that “it is a simple, low cost, and potentially safe and effective therapy that is targeted to underprivileged patients who many times cannot access other treatments due to their high costs.”

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a crucial role in solving critical needs around the world, especially in developing countries with poorer conditions. JCWO and FJC provide health care to the needy and have committed to expanding their programs and uniting efforts with all sectors to continue to serve impoverished communities on both a local and international scale. With efforts like these, underserved and underprivileged communities can access the health care they need. 

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

tools to prevent cervical cancerCervical cancer continues to be a big problem for developing countries. More than eight out of ten cervical cancer deaths will happen in developing countries, in spite of the fact that the tools to prevent cervical cancer are available now.

How Countries are Addressing the Issue

In May 2018 in Geneva, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance “welcomed the call” issued by the World Health Organization Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for coordinated action against cervical cancer. The first steps on the path to eliminating cervical cancer are sustainable disease control through significant investments and holistic health systems.

Currently, cervical cancer is projected to overtake childbirth as the leading cause of death among women, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Around the world, 266,000 women and girls die each year as a result of cervical cancer. By 2030, that number could increase to more than 380,000.

Eight Gavi-supported countries have launched the vaccine nationally with 30 countries implementing a demonstration program. Ethiopia and Senegal begin nationwide vaccination in 2018. These countries understand that the tools to prevent cervical cancer are available now.

Battling Cervical Cancer in Developing Countries

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, with 80 percent of cases happening in the developing world. It is the leading cause of death among women in developing countries, where it causes about 190,000 deaths each year. Cervical cancer risk is highest in Central America, sub-Saharan Africa and Melanesia.

A lack of effective screening programs used to detect and lead to treatment of pre-cancerous conditions is the major reason for the much higher cervical cancer occurrence in developing countries. Roughly about five percent of women in developing countries have been screened for cervical dysplasia, compared to 40 to 50 percent of women in developed countries.

Of the total number of cases of cervical cancer worldwide, 99 percent were estimated to contain HPV DNA. HPV virus infects the cells of the cervix and slowly causes pre-cancerous cellular changes (dysplasia) that progress. Women are generally at the highest risk of HPV infection in their teens, 20s or 30s. It can take as long as 20 years after the initial HPV infection for cancer to develop.

Using the Proper Tools to Prevent Cervical Cancer

In many developing countries, treatment options are limited. Cervical lesions are often treated with aggressive approaches like cone biopsies or hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) rather than with appropriate outpatient approaches.

Simple outpatient procedures should be used instead to destroy or remove pre-cancerous tissue. A common outpatient method is cryotherapy; another is a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). LEEP does involve more equipment and supplies, but it removes diseased tissue while at the same time providing a specimen for analysis, reducing the possibility of overlooking invasive cancer.

The keys to curing cervical cancer and reducing HPV infections are education, screening and access to vaccines. What is required is the removal of barriers preventing women and girls from accessing the necessary healthcare. From vaccination campaigns to self-administered screenings, many countries are already on the right path to helping stop unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer. The tools to prevent cervical cancer are available now, and women in developing nations have a right to access those tools.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr