by Auxilia Chideme-Munodawafa, Hospice & Palliative Care Association of Zimbabwe, Mutare, Zimbabwe.
Putting a Cancer Strategic Plan Together: A Zimbabwean Experience
Cancer is the third leading cause of death globally, with 12 million new cases and 7.6 million deaths (2007). The figures are projected to increase to 26 million cases and 17 million deaths annually by 2030. According to World Health Organization (WHO, 2007), as long as a country develops and implements a well-managed national cancer control program, cancer incidence is bound to be lowered and the lives of cancer patients and their families improved irrespective of the challenges faced by individual countries, particularly those in the low resource category. WHO uses four approaches in the fight against cancer: prevention, cure, care and management (2007). To achieve this, WHO has facilitated the development of strategies for cancer control across countries worldwide.
In Zimbabwe, cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality with over 5000 new diagnoses and over 1000 deaths per year per the Zimbabwe Cancer Registry 2007 annual report (2011). The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and its partners in cancer control are prioritizing cancer policy and implementation of relevant advances, with the vision that Zimbabwe will have a system for cancer control that will reduce the cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality rates and improve quality of life of people with cancer and their families by 2017.
The Process of Developing the Zimbabwe 2013-2017 Cancer Strategy
Because cancer care is provided at all levels of care in Zimbabwe , the Ministry of Health invited all levels of health care professionals to come together in the development of the 5-year strategic plan, (2013-2017). The team included oncologists, radiologists, radiographers, surgeons, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, palliative care specialists, representatives of Traditional Healers Association, (including Hospice & Palliative Care Association of Zimbabwe (HOSPAZ), a full member of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC)), universities offering oncology and palliative care education (the University of Zimbabwe, Africa University and the Zimbabwe Open University), and national and international nongovernmental organizations in cancer control. Because of the consultative nature of developing the strategic plan, it took a full year to develop the plan, from 2013 under the auspices of the Principal Director of Non Communicable Disease. The plan was adopted by the government of Zimbabwe in 2014 and included the planning year to run from 2013-2017.
Programs rolling out of the Strategic Plan
Several programs and documents such as policies and curricula have been rolled out from the 5-year strategic plan. The Ministry of Health Zimbabwe also requested HOSPAZ to develop palliative care policy, and an oncology nursing education curriculum. A one-year diploma in oncology nursing was commenced in 2014 at one of the state nursing schools in Zimbabwe. This is a ground breaking program because such training program never existed before in Zimbabwe. More cancer screening and diagnostic programs are also being put in place.
The best way to fight against cancer with better outcomes in low resource countries is that health professionals should work hand-in-hand together through partnership and collaborations with the Ministry of Health .We look forward to sharing with you more about the impact of this 5-year strategic plan on cancer control in Zimbabwe in the near future.
The National Cancer Prevention and Control Strategy for Zimbabwe 2014-2018 is available online: http://www.cancerzimbabwe.org/articles/Nat%20Cancer%20Prevention%20and%20Control%20Doc_18_3_14.pdf
- Chokunonga, E., Borok, M.Z., Chirenje, Z.M., Nyakabau, A.M., & Rukainga, R. (2011). Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry 2007 Annual Report.
- World Health Organization (2007). The World Health Organization’s Fight Against Cancer: Strategies That Prevent, Cure and Care. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/cancer/publicat/WHOCancerBrochure2007.FINALweb.pdf