Second Cervical Cancer Forum concludes with impactful messages to achieve prevention and elimination targets
Accelerating Action on HPV and Cervical Cancer’, the two-day global conference held virtually from Sharjah convened 968 healthcare experts, policymakers and specialists from 40 countries
Following up on the insights gained on the opening day of the second edition of the Cervical Cancer Forum yesterday (Wednesday), the global conference reconvened today (Thursday) to carry forward the agenda of cervical cancer prevention and the establishment of sustainable and equitable cervical cancer and HPV eradication programs.
Organized virtually from Sharjah by the UAE-based civil society organization, Friends Of Cancer Patients (FOCP), in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the two-day global forum convened 968 pioneering actors and global stakeholders in the field from 40 countries.
The second day’s discussions began with keynote remarks by Dr. Sawsan Al Madhi, Director General, FOCP.
Extending a warm welcome to the virtual attendees, the Director-General said: “Our meeting today promises to be an exceptional one going by the amazing success of the first day of the second edition of the Cervical Cancer Forum. We had insightful speakers and illuminating panels that threw light on where we are at prevention and elimination of cervical cancer and what more needs to be done.”
“Inaugurating the forum yesterday, the patron of the forum, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and Founder and Patron of FOCP, made a very emotional and touching speech about the lives lost and families affected by cervical cancer, which focused on the importance of this effort. Her Excellency Sawsan Al-Fahoum Jafar, Chairperson and President of the Board of Directors, FOCP, reflected on the entity’s goals and advocacy efforts on a national, regional, and global level. His Excellency Abdulrahman Al Oweis, Minister of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) – UAE, outlined how UAE’s mission to roll out vaccination against cervical cancer had achieved a staggering success rate of 82 percent,” she added.
Dr. Shible Sahbani, Regional Sexual and Reproductive Health Advisor, United Nations Population (UNFPA) – Arab States Regional Office (ASRO), encapsulated the highlights of the previous day’s discussions.
Role of social organizations and media
Taking the discussions initiated on the inaugural day of the forum forward, experts reviewed the role of patient-facing organizations and the media in furthering the cervical cancer treatment and elimination agenda.
Based on the theme ‘Social Advocacy in Cervical Cancer’, the day’s session began with a keynote’, on ‘Faith, religion, and culture as a driver in cervical cancer elimination’, presented by Prof. Gamal Srour, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Director for the International Islamic Center for Population Studies and Research (IICPSR), Al Azhar University, Egypt.
He said: “Every year 603,978 women suffer from cervical cancer and 341,744 of them do not survive. The paradox is that it is a preventable disease and curable if detected early and treated. In fact, cervical cancer is the one cancer the world can actually eliminate, and it is time to do so. We already have the tools, they just need to be made accessible. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic looming large across the world, the 73rd World Health Assembly adopted a resolution in August 2020 calling for the elimination of cervical cancer and the adoption of a strategy to make it happen.”
“According to WHO, the cost-effectiveness of such a strategy stems from the fact that for every $1 spent there is a return of $3.2 to $26 from the increased participation of women in the workforce or from benefits of women’s improved health on families, communities and societies. WHO’s strategy for elimination of cervical cancer looks at 90% HPV vaccination coverage, 70% screening coverage and 90% access to treatment, including per-cancer, cancer, and palliative treatment by 2030. What we need to do is incentivise religious, faith, and cultural organizations to undertake activities to implement this strategy. Cultural, faith, and religious organizations can contribute effectively and play a major role in achieving the target. Successful implementation of vaccination, screening and treatment could reduce more than 40% of new cases and 5 million related deaths by the year 2050.”
This was followed by the first panel of the day titled, ‘Voices of patients-focused organisations’ success stories’. The panelists included Dr. Heather White, Executive Director, Together for Health, USA; Hanaa Serry, Secretary of Board of Directors, Baheya, Egypt; Cecilia Llave, Chair CECAP, Cervical Cancer Prevention Network, Philippines; and Dr. Nashwa Abdelaziz, Kuwait Cancer Control Center (KCCC), with Haya Merai, Program Manager, FOCP, moderating.
The second panel on ‘How can media support proper communication to create impactful messaging?’, saw Dr. Ibrahim Al Kardani, freelance health and media expert and former World Health Organisation regional spokesperson; Tamika Felder, survivor and advocate, Cervivor Inc, USA; and Kate Sanger, Head of Policy and Communications, Jo Cervical Cancer Trust, UK, discuss the issue with moderator Samir Al- Darabi, Regional Communication Advisor, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – Arab States Regional Office (ASRO).
A documentary titled Faces of Hope – Together for Health was screened for the audience at the conclusion of the second panel.
Technological advances made in the fight against cervical cancer
The second part of the day’s discussions focused on the theme ‘Advances and Innovation role in the ecosystem of cervical cancer elimination’, beginning with Dr. Mona Saraiya, Medical Officer and Team Leader, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, CDC, USA, delivering a keynote on ‘Role of technology and knowledge management’.
Titled ‘The Role of Technology, Innovation and Partnerships in Achieving Equitable Access to Cervical Cancer Services’, the concluding panel of the forum witnessed panelists Dr. Hayat Sindi, Chief Advisor to the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Science, Technology and Innovation, Jeddah, KSA; and Dr. Abdullah Abdulrahman Al Sumait, General Manager of Direct Aid Society, Kuwait, discuss the pros and con of the issue with moderator Anja Nitzsche, Head of Resource Mobilisation and Strategic Partnerships at the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy, IAEA – Austria. This was followed by a short film on the International Atomic Energy Agency efforts to reduce cervical cancer.
The second Cervical Cancer Forum concluded with closing remarks from Dr. Sawsan Al Madhi and c calling for action for addressing cervical cancer integrating the pillars of prevention, treatment, palliative care, and social aspects globally and specifically in the Arab region.
Held virtually this year to prioritize the safety of the participants in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cervical Cancer Forum’s online platform allowed active interaction among panelists, speakers, and audience members, ensuring the efficiency of the forum discussions and outcomes. It brought together pioneering actors and global stakeholders in the field including, Gavi The Vaccine Alliance, global health institutes and university hospitals, pioneer researchers, and policymakers, who pushed the agenda of cervical cancer prevention and explored ways to foster collaborations to address regional and national responses to HPV and cervical cancer in the Arab region more effectively.