A doctor from Kenya is the first African oncologist to sit on the board of directors of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), a global body representing the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, patient groups, policy makers, researchers and cancer experts from 170 countries.
Dr. Miriam Mutebi, a breast cancer surgeon, clinical epidemiologist and health systems researcher will represent Kenya, the African continent and the broader global oncology community on the board for a period of two years commencing this month until December 2022.
The prestigious appointment was announced by the UICC Board President Anil D’Cruz following a competitive election by the UICC General Assembly in which she came up ahead in a field of renown global cancer leaders.
Dr. Mutebi joins the UICC board of 17 directors that will steer the third largest organization globally in driving cancer prevention and control strategy and policy for the foreseeable future.
“This is an excellent opportunity for us in Sub Saharan Africa and for Kenya specifically to ensure that the global discussion on cancer policy and strategy, patient care and advocacy, is afro centric as much as possible,” said Dr. Mutebi, noting that one of her major intentions is to push for cultural and other unique African attributes including language, to be considered and captured when experts are designing cancer policies and strategies that will impact Africans.
She explained that it was important for Africa to feature prominently in global cancer prevention and control discussions since the incidences of cancer cases were growing fast.
This is especially crucial as the global population of cancer patients is projected to reach 20 million by the year 2030 and at least 75 per cent of them will be in low and middle- income nations.
Dr. Mutebi noted that with Kenya and Africa, firmly represented at the table charting the future of cancer control, another of her initial tasks will be to get Nairobi nominated as a Future Cancer City.
“This is a major project that will help position Nairobi as a future-ready city with modern infrastructure and human resources to effectively manage cancer cases,” she said.
It involves working closely through the Kenya Society of Haematology and Oncology (KESHO), of which she is a council member, with the Ministry of Health and the National Cancer Control Program team to carry out a detailed assessment of the state of the capital’s cancer management facilities and making a strong bid for the global certification which is expected to cement Kenya’s pole positioning as a regional cancer management destination.
Only two other African cities-Kigali in Rwanda and Kumasi in Ghana -have previously been awarded the Future Cancer City tag.
She aims to develop robust regional collaborations that leverage collective resources that will help improve available care and treatment options for patients in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Our central aim is to bridge the gap between awareness and action in order to reduce the overall cancer burden for everyone. This is a major feat and we acknowledge will necessitate public and private sector health practitioners working together,” she added, pointing out that it will be notable to prioritize strategies that can be employed to amplify the need to embrace global, evidence- based, best standards of care, while taking into account the African context such as language and culture to ensure equity and better access for all cancer patients, especially in Sub Sahara Africa.