An educational program for training doctors and nurses who care for children with cancer in East Africa is in development. It is envisioned that those trained will be associated with institutions participating in INCTR projects. The goal of this initiative is to improve the quality of care that children with cancer receive such that the institutions can then serve as centers of excellence in the delivery of pediatric cancer care.
A series of initiatives will be undertaken that are directed towards integrating psychosocial intervention as an essential component of the overall treatment strategies for children and adolescents with cancer in low and middle income countries. While it is well known that in more affluent countries that a multi-disciplinary approach to the management of pediatric cancer that includes psychosocial support services from the time of diagnosis improves quality of life, sophisticated psychosocial support may not be routine or available in many institutions in developing countries. Furthermore, the issues confronting families with a child or adolescent with cancer are often complex, particularly in these countries. Long distances from the treatment center may result in extended stays for the family members, primarily the mother within the vicinity of the treatment center. This can prove to be expensive for the family to sustain and often results in the absence of care for siblings or other family members who remain at home. Loss of income due to the time away from work also has major impacts upon families. Families often must bear the burden of the costs of travel to and from the treatment center as well as the costs of the treatment itself resulting in further financial jeopardy for low and middle income families. A survey to learn about the various types of psychosocial support services that exist or that do not exist in pediatric oncology units within INCTR’s network will be undertaken. Guidelines and recommendations for psychological and social management and support in pediatric oncology will be developed.
It is estimated that the survival of children with cancer in Ethiopia is less than 10% - in stark contrast to the rates achieved in more developed countries where more than 70% are cured. Moreover, palliative care is not available for those patients who are destined to die of their disease. Through its Pediatric Oncology Program, INCTR is working to establish links with the University of Addis Ababa and the Medical School of the university in order to develop pediatric cancer care services. It will work at the governmental level to assist in addressing pediatric cancer control in this country. It has already begun discussions with the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia in order to streamline the process of importing the chemotherapy drugs required for the treatment of children with cancer and to improve opioid availability for those in need of palliative care.