Cooperation and Collaboration Needed to Tackle Noncommunicable Diseases in Under-resourced Countries

We must work within the system to bring about change.

By Zeba Khan, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, Celgene

John Chahilu is a proud Kenyan who is living with multiple myeloma. John could have easily been another statistic—another preventable death resulting from cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Delayed cancer diagnoses and poor-quality treatment are all too common in low- and middle-income countries like Kenya. However, increasingly, multi-sector partnerships are taking action so that patients, like John, can have better health outcomes.

John is being treated by physicians at the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program and Moi University Referral and Treatment Hospital, which are working in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to create equitable access to health care.

The Ministry is currently advancing universal coverage through a National Health Insurance Scheme and a corresponding population health model that operates through a network of rural clinics focused on the provision of quality primary care and a strong referral network for more advanced or specialty cases.

AMPATH’s Oncology Institute has worked to improve diagnostic and treatment training for multiple myeloma. In 2010, physicians at AMPATH were surprised to have diagnosed five patients with myeloma. With more awareness and better diagnostics, that number has grown steadily to 34 new patients in 2012 to 60 new patients in 2017. The expected number of new multiple myeloma diagnoses in the country is about 800 per year.

ZEBA KHAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY AT CELGENE, PARTICIPATED IN A PANEL DISCUSSION ON “ENGAGING ACROSS SECTORS AND DISCIPLINES TO ADDRESS NCDS” DURING AN ACCESS ACCELERATED-HOSTED EVENT IN NAIROBI, KENYA.

ZEBA KHAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY AT CELGENE, PARTICIPATed IN A PANEL DISCUSSION ON “ENGAGING ACROSS SECTORS AND DISCIPLINES TO ADDRESS NCDs” DURING AN ACCESS ACCELERATED-HOSTED EVENT IN NAIROBI, KENYA.

In late March, in Nairobi, Kenya, John participated in a panel discussion on engaging across sectors and disciplines to address NCDs. John kicked off the panel with his own patient story, an example of the power of cross-sector collaborations to create new possibilities for patients.

The discussion was part of a larger meeting hosted by Access Accelerated, an initiative that has brought together over 20 biopharmaceutical companies to tackle the challenges of NCDs. The meeting brought together representatives from patient groups, civil society, government and the private sector to discuss the specific challenges of addressing NCDs in Kenya, as well as current and potential sustainable solutions.

The Access Accelerated meeting extended an important discussion that began earlier in the week at an event convened by the World Bank and the Kenyan Ministry of Health in which NCD stakeholders discussed strategies for realigning NCDs with Kenya’s Universal Health Coverage agenda.

Collaboration is key to making measurable progress on NCDs. We are working across health systems and sectors to advance sustainable solutions for patients.

John’s story and the discussion that followed emphasized how organizations across all parts of the health care sector—private and public, large and small—can help in the fight against NCDs, in Kenya and elsewhere, by working together.

This is the aim of Celgene’s partnership with AMPATH Oncology. Together, we have created the first and only multiple myeloma program in Kenya that educates patients and healthcare professionals. Through our continuing education programs for oncologists, we have helped to improve diagnostics so that patients are more likely to get accurate diagnoses and consequently, earlier treatment options.

John is one of the approximately 100 Kenyans with multiple myeloma who are seeing specialists through the AMPATH program. Hearing his story was a gratifying reminder of how global health partnerships are making an impact on patients’ lives.

Our partnership with AMPATH works within the current healthcare system to address a locally identified need and to improve multiple myeloma care in Kenya. Through the AMPATH program, Celgene works with Moi University Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya, providing additional training for oncologists who are already treating patients so that they can provide better care. This complementary approach was emphasized by several participants during the panel session.

THE “ENGAGING ACROSS SECTORS AND DISCIPLINES TO ADDRESS NCDs” PANEL INCLUDED PATIENTS, HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS, BIOPHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES, NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS AND KENYA’S MINISTRY OF HEALTH.

THE “ENGAGING ACROSS SECTORS AND DISCIPLINES TO ADDRESS NCDs” PANEL INCLUDED PATIENTS, HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS, BIOPHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES, NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS AND KENYA’S MINISTRY OF HEALTH.

At the meeting, it was encouraging to see so many stakeholders from different sectors come together and learn from one another. For example, the panel discussion featured patients, healthcare professionals, biopharmaceutical companies, non-profit organizations and Kenya’s Ministry of Health.

To meet the challenges of noncommunicable diseases in Kenya, and the rest of the world, we need to continue listening to diverse perspectives from all sectors and to find ways to complement and enhance what others are already doing.

As Celgene continues to support global health initiatives, patients will remain at the heart of everything we do. Our vision is for many more patients to have stories like John’s, in which they receive a timely diagnosis and appropriate treatments, regardless of where they live.

To learn more about how partnerships like Access Accelerated are strengthening the global healthcare system’s capacity for cancer care, read “Burden of Cancer Growing in Developing Countries.”