APEC health working group sees progress in cervical cancer elimination


| Photo by CDC on Unsplash

SINGAPORE – The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), an economic group currently with 21 members that promotes and facilitates trade, economic growth, and the improvement of living standards for the Asia-Pacific region, has announced, through its health working group, a comprehensive report that measures the progress of cervical cancer elimination. It includes the status of intervention programs to prevent and control the condition across the region.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women worldwide, with more than 600,000 new cases and more than 340,000 deaths estimated in 2020. Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies accounted for an estimated 38 percent of new cases and 35 percent of deaths globally.

The report builds on the 2021 roadmap, which set policy targets for member economies to bolster health capacity and enable women and girls to lead healthy and productive lives. It outlines how member economies can achieve critical objectives for cervical cancer elimination programs, such as implementing comprehensive, interoperable registries and establishing definitive secondary and tertiary care referral strategies.

“There is no doubt that healthy women bring palpable benefits to our economy,” said Dr. Narong Aphikulvanich, Chair of the APEC Health Working Group.

“Most illness and death occur in women at an age when they are leading productive lives and contributing to society and the economy while attaining leadership positions and caring for their family members,” Dr. Aphikulvanich added. “As such, cervical cancer has a reverberating effect on the social and economic welfare of families and society alike.”

According to the World Health Organization’s global strategy for cancer elimination, achieving the targets of 90 percent of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by age 15 years; 70 percent of women who are screened between 35 and 45 years of age; and 90 percent of women identified with the cervical disease receive treatment, will avert more than 74 million new cases of cervical cancer and over 62 million deaths by 2120.

“As the only cancer that is both curable and preventable, cervical cancer presents an opportunity,” said Dr. Suleeporn Sangrajrang, from Thailand National Cancer Institute, who oversees this project.

“Strengthening interventions across the prevention and control continuum improves the health, well-being, and economic participation of women and girls. Tracking progress through a dashboard underscores the compelling case for investment,” Dr. Sangrajrang added.

While most economies have implemented a strategy for cervical cancer elimination, whether, through a comprehensive elimination program, ongoing development of a plan, or intervention strategies included in a broader cancer plan, there remain gaps in implementation.

“The data from the report indicates that most APEC economies are furthest along in meeting targets for cervical cancer treatment,” said Dr. Ted Trimble of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, who co-led this project.

“This reflects a traditional focus of health systems, but to reduce the disease incidence, increasing investment and uptake of vaccination and screening are an urgent imperative,” added Dr. Trimble.

Recognizing the need for multistakeholder collaboration to build technical capacity and strengthen health equity, the report also spotlights best practices from economies that promote partnerships between government, the private sector, and civil society and interventions that target vulnerable and at-risk populations.

This project supports APEC member economies’ efforts towards the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, which calls for efforts to ensure that the Asia-Pacific region is resilient to shocks, crises, pandemics, and other emergencies by fostering the benefits and greater health and well-being to all, including micro, small and medium enterprises, women and others with untapped economic potential.

The APEC Aotearoa Plan of Action further asks for actions that can enable quality and equitable health access and outcomes for all with a view to achieving universal health coverage, including strengthening health systems.

— With Jay Domingo/PDM

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