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.
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