Inequalities exist in cancer survival rates – Study

Findings of a study conducted by health researchers have revealed substantial inequalities existing in cancer survival rates globally.

It also showed that survival varied significantly among countries with similar levels of income, health spending, education and basic health indicators for cancers such as cervical, breast, testicular and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Speaking at a four-day Global Health Metrics and Evaluation 2011 international conference in Seattle, Dr Felicia Marie Knaul of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA, described cancer as a health priority in low income and middle income countries.

She said though certain cancers such as cervical and breast were leading causes of mortality for particular population groups, the health systems in these countries were ill prepared to meet the challenge.

Her topic was: “Inequalities in Cancer Survival in Low and Middle-income Countries: Measurement, Identification of Outliers, and Implication of Health System Performance Assessment.”

The conference, the first of its kind, on the theme: “Global Health Metrics and Evaluation: Controversies, Innovation, Accountability,” is being attended by over 600 researchers, policy makers and global health leaders from around the world.

They will be sharing ground breaking advances in health measurements as well as tackle contentious debates.

The conference will highlight innovative methods, latest debates in measurements, and translation of data to inform effective policy for improved population health.

It is co-hosted by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Lancet, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health and University of Queensland School of Population Health.

The conference aims at fostering greater exchange of ideas, collaboration and intellectual innovation and help bridge traditional disciplinary boundaries by demonstrating the force and potential of multi disciplinary intellectual endeavours in population health.

Topics to be treated include non-communicable diseases, malaria, priority setting and health inequalities.

Dr Knaul noted that to prevent new cancers by reducing risk factors, strategies were needed to close the gap between the rich and the poor countries in cancer survival, whilst understanding of differences in survival globally could contribute to developing effective strategies.

She said outlier analysis could provide an opportunity to identify poor performers and delve deeply into the health and health system determinants of cancer survival.

“More and better cancer registries would be a key for producing better evidence to help countries face the transitions in non-communicable disease,” she added.

Professor Rafael Lozano of IHME said more than 35 per cent of available cause of death data from 1901 to 2008 contained deaths assigned to causes often called Garbage Codes (GCs).

These cases, he said, included reported causes with insufficient detail or those that cannot be considered as underlying causes of death.

Prof Lozano explained that both the GCs redistribution for both developed and developing countries tended to shift the epidemiological transition to occur earlier in time.

“The magnitude of the change varied with the fraction of death assigned to GCs for each country and time period with a greater increase in major non-communicable diseases due to GC corrections observed in earlier years as compared with more recent time periods, partly because GCs have declined from more than 43 per cent in 1950s to 24 per cent in the 1990s,” Dr Lozano said.

Source: GNA

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