Presentation at the AOSW Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, May, 2004

Cancer in Global Perspective

Cancer is a major global health problem. Increasing awareness is essential in working for policy changes to remedy the situation. This presentation examines cancer as a worldwide health issue, identifies international entities involved in cancer control, and suggests avenues for social work involvement.

Those in the cancer community in prosperous countries need to be involved in efforts for change. World peace depends on recognition of our interdependence and commitment to working to find solutions to global problems These issues also affect our practice on a daily basis.

The Problem

20 million people worldwide live with cancer. Each year 10 million more are diagnosed, and 6 million die. By 2020, some 70% of new cases will occur in the developing world, more than doubling the death rate. In North America and Europe, 70% of children with cancer survive: in developing countries, 90% die, most untreated. While many cancers can be prevented, tobacco companies now target developing countries as sales decline elsewhere.

Without national health systems or insurance, patients must seek treatment on their own The information age has made people aware that treatments are available, but not for them. The prohibitive price of medicines is another barrier.

A Role for Oncology Social Work

Our multifaceted work gives us unique professional perspectives to bring to domestic and international cancer control efforts.

We can bring our knowledge of cases to system advocacy efforts by documenting needs. Our community organization skills can help colleagues and patients work for improved care. Our psychosocial practice, including end –of-life care, can be a model for enhanced training of our counterparts in other countries. International and immigrant families are among the many uninsured seeking cancer treatments in the USA. Usually there are only piecemeal responses to their plight, emphasizing the need for larger system changes.

Awareness is needed of global market forces that affect patients directly, such as the export of clinical trials, commercial blood cell enterprises, and Pharma influence on providers and patient groups

In this presentation, examples are drawn from presenter's work with cancer professionals and patient groups in several countries.

View the presentation, as a PDF.