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Adoption of public health strategies and early detection key for cancer mitigation: Experts

Prioritising People-Centric and Community-Centered Healthcare is the Need of the Hour, says oncologist Dr Ravi Kannan, Magsaysay Awardee

Medical experts around the globe emphasised the urgent need for public health strategies and early detection for mitigating cancer at the 6th Amrita International Public Health Conference (AIPHC), which took place at Amrita Hospital, Kochi.

Dr Aswathy S, Professor & HOD, Dept of Community Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, and Chairperson of AIPHC2023, remarked, ‘’The conference emphasised a multi-faceted approach in public health strategies for cancer control. This included creating comprehensive cancer registries, geospatial mapping, researching early diagnostic tools, and establishing support systems for patients and caregivers. The overarching message was to adopt a holistic approach recognising the complexity of cancer control, addressing various aspects from prevention to supportive care. Early diagnosis closer to patients’ homes was underscored as a crucial component for improved outcomes.’’

The event served as a pivotal platform where experts from various fields engaged in meaningful discussions and shared valuable insights aimed at advancing public health strategies, particularly in the domain of cancer control. The conference was jointly organised by Dr Shobha, Associate Prof, Dept of Community Medicine; Dr Pavithran K, Professor & Head at the Department of Medical Oncology; and Dr Aswathy S, who led their teams from Amrita Hospital, Kochi. This collaboration was in partnership with the iTMO Center for Science Communication and EAFO (Eurasian Federation of Oncology).

The collaboration played a pivotal role in enhancing the conference’s impact and broadening its audience and influence. Renowned experts like Dr Anton Barchuk, HoD, Interdisciplinary Institute for Health Research from St. Petersburg University enriched the discussions, particularly focusing on leveraging cancer registry data for effective control strategies.

Renowned oncologist Dr Ravi Kannan shared impactful insights from his experiences at Cachar Cancer Hospital in Assam. He stated, “By adopting a people-centred approach, minimising waiting lists, embracing task shifting, fostering collaboration for success, and prioritising friend raising over fundraising, we aim to create a healthcare environment that truly serves the needs of the community. Together, let us continue to make a positive impact and bring about meaningful change in the lives of those we serve.”

Viji Venkitesh, Regional Head, Max Foundation provided perspectives at the intersection of public health and cancer control. Highlighting initiatives like ‘Chai for Cancer’ and her contributions to establishing the Preventive Oncology Department at Tata Memorial Hospital, she underscored the importance of community mobilisation to address the financial challenges faced by families affected by cancer.

Dr R Sankaranarayanan, Director of Preventive Oncology, Karkinos Healthcare, said, “The need for universal healthcare and minimising catastrophic expenditure in cancer care is of utmost importance. Thailand’s remarkable success in reducing such spending by over 70 per cent in 25 years is something that the world should be inspired by. Key factors such as enhanced health literacy, awareness, robust connectivity, and a resilient health system contribute significantly to Kerala’s lower percentage of late-stage cancer reports compared to other states. These valuable lessons have the potential for broad national application.”

Dr Yao Song, Professor of Oncology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, underscored the multifaceted nature of cancer disparities, delving into molecular cancer epidemiological principles to pinpoint factors influencing cancer susceptibility. He highlighted advancements in cancer immunotherapy, emphasising the positive impact of immune checkpoint inhibitors on patient survival.

Dr Gauravi Mishra and Dr Sharmila Pimple from Tata Memorial Hospital, in the “Protecting HER Health” session, advocated for regular breast cancer screenings and HPV vaccination in cervical cancer control. Dr Catherine Sauvaget from the International Agency for Research on Cancer stressed the importance of combining HPV vaccination with regular screenings for comprehensive cervical cancer prevention, urging government commitment to WHO guidelines.

Dr Nina Linder from Uppsala University, Sweden said, “Incorporating AI into point-of-care practices for cervical cancer screening holds the potential to significantly enhance efficiency and accuracy. The utilisation of AI technology can facilitate precise and timely identification of cervical abnormalities, leading to early detection and intervention. It’s crucial to emphasise accurate annotation and labelling of input image data as essential elements for the successful implementation of AI in this context.”

The Founder and CEO of the Eurasian Federation of Oncology delved into cancer control strategies in Russia and ex-Soviet states, highlighting the economic aspects of cancer care and emphasising the crucial role of NGOs in effective cancer control. The necessity of a strong rapport between oncologists and physicians for early cancer diagnosis was also highlighted.

Dr Moni Abraham Kuriakose, Co-founder and Medical Director, Karkinos Healthcare said, “In our comprehensive discussion on oral cancer, innovative techniques such as mHealth and convolutional neural networks enhance early detection and intervention. Diverse aspects, including epidemiology, prevention strategies, economic burdens, play a pivotal role behind technology effectively downstaging oral cancer.”

Dr Rijo John, Health Economist also emphasized the impact of tobacco on oral cancers and revealed staggering costs of treating tobacco-attributable cancers.


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