Call to make cancer a national priority

In an urgent effort to address the growing burden of cancer in South Africa, the Voice of Cancer National Call to Action was launched on 8 June 2011.

Supported by the American Cancer Society and Livestrong, the Voice of Cancer National Call to Action comes as a result of the recent Voice of Cancer Survivors Forum, a collaboration by Campaigning for Cancer and other cancer NGOs in the country.

The Forum, held in Cape Town on 12-13th May 2011, saw cancer NGOs, patients, government, pharmaceutical companies and medical schemes; commit to reduce the national burden of cancer through a focused and collaborative effort.

Four priority actions were agreed upon throughout the Forum.  Delegates supported these as the National Call to Action which will shape civil society’s and stakeholders roadmap to make cancer and the challenges faced by those affected by the disease a priority in South Africa.

The National Call to Action comprises of:

  • Collaborative efforts be devised by all stakeholders to ensure that cancer patient rights and dignities are protected and that through the establishment of a National Cancer Advisory Council, stakeholders and civil society represent cancer patient’s needs, as defined in the Health Act; 
  • Strategies to ensure a national cancer registry and national cancer control plan, investment, funding and focus on delivery are developed and implemented;
  • Investments in public health infrastructure, training and education, and;
  • De-stigmatise cancer with evidence-based and culturally-relevant information that ensures the elimination of discrimination of cancer patients in their workplace and communities. 

At the Forum Sandyha Singh, the National Department of Health’s Director: Chronic Diseases, Disabilities & Geriatrics encouraged cancer NGOs to speak with one voice when engaging with government on cancer issues. 

Discussions at the Forum, strongly called for a National Cancer Control Plan that is succinct, implementable and, with quality access for all, developed in consultation with stakeholders.

Cancer registry 

It found that the regulations that define cancer as treatable or untreatable are unacceptable. Thus, a cancer registry is imperative and needs to be well funded, resourced, accurate, maintained, and must contain information that is accessible and utilised by all stakeholders.

Campaigning for Cancer Chairperson, Neil Kirby applauded the National Department of Health for its recent change in regulations to ensure that all healthcare professionals report cancer cases through the National Cancer Registry.

“The regulation amending the National Health Act which was promulgated on April 26, is definitely a step in the right direction for addressing the burden of cancer in this country, but there is much more that needs to be done”, he said.

Deliberations were held about the elimination of discrimination against cancer patients in their workplace and that communities should be looked at to form part of the Employment Equity Act.

Delegates highlighted that cancer education at all levels is imperative, and should include survivor stories.

Forum delegates agreed that the establishment of a National Cancer Advisory Council is required, as well as the collaboration of civil society in forming a cancer coalition.

United Nations high level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs)

Lauren Pretorius, Head of Strategy at Campaigning for Cancer said the Call to Action was not militant, but indeed a battle defined by the execution of obligations by Government and patients.

“It is not a finger-pointing or blame-allocating exercise, but rather an appreciation of our obligations and duties in relation to what it is that we wish to achieve. This is not the time to rest on the basis that the problem has been outsourced or delegated to a third party or to Government, but rather to stand up to be counted by participating in the strategy that has been formulated,” she said.

People Living with Cancer spokesperson and Campaigning for Cancer board member, Linda Greeff, said that it is vital that civil society work together on making the National Call to Action a success.

“It is civil society’s responsibility to make this a working document, collaborating together, with one voice, to achieve change for the better in cancer care.  Civil society plays a key role in agreeing to cancer plans that will secure better cancer control and cancer services for patients. Cancer is a global priority, and should be a national priority for South Africa.  The upcoming United Nations high level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) being held in New York in September, highlights the fact that South Africa cannot sit on its laurels any longer. 

The collaborative effort from NGOs on the Call to Action is long overdue and in this unified effort, we will make sure we get results,” said Greeff.

Campaigning for Cancer is calling all cancer stakeholders to join them in one voice in their efforts to drive the Voice of Cancer initiative into the future.  For more information about Campaigning for Cancer and the Voice of Cancer initiative, visit

Campaigning for Cancer press release

- (Health24, June 2011)

Read more:

South Africa's growing cancer burden in spotlight
Global move needed to battle cancer
About cancer

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