July 7, 2017, Nairobi – The government of Kenya has launched the National Cancer Control Strategy, 2017-2022. The launch was done at a well-coordinated media breakfast function which was presided over by Dr Jackson Kioko, Director of Medical Services, on behalf of Health Cabinet Secretary, Dr Cleopa Mailu.
Dr Kioko said cancer is one of the major non-communicable diseases and combined with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, causes over 60% of total global mortality annually. In Kenya, cancer ranks third as a cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases, he added.
“It is estimated that every year, we have 40, 000 new cancer cases and over 27,000 deaths,” he said.
He noted that the rising burden of cancer is fuelled to a great extent by four shared behavioural risk factors. These are influenced by economic transition, rapid urbanization and adoption of unhealthy lifestyles such as tobacco use, consumption of unhealthy diets, insufficient physical activity and the harmful use of alcohol coupled with an increased exposure to environmental carcinogens.
In view of the aforementioned risk factors, the Director of Medical Services said that the Ministry of Health is cognizant that effective cancer prevention and control, calls for a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach. He said the National Cancer Control Strategy 2017 – 2022 outlines comprehensive interventions to be undertaken by both the national and county governments in collaboration with other non-state actors to reduce the incidence of cancer and improve the quality of life of those who develop cancer in Kenya.
Dr Kioko said to operationalize this strategy, the ministry was exploring a public-private partnership approach, to establish four regional cancer treatment centres in Kisii, Nakuru, Nyeri and Mombasa to decongest the national referral hospitals and bring care closer to the people. In addition, the National Hospital Insurance Fund now provided financing for diagnosis and treatment of cancer that covers chemotherapy, radiotherapy, CT scans, MRI and monthly clinic check-ups. This was markedly reducing the waiting time and long queues at Kenyatta National Hospital, he added.
In his address, the World Health Organization Country Representative who was represented by Dr Joyce Nato said that cancers were among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8.8 million cancer related deaths in 2015. The number of new cases was expected to rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades.
Dr Nato said the most common causes of cancer death were cancers of Lung, Liver, Colorectal, stomach and breast. Other commonly affected sites were the cervix, prostate and the oesophagus.
She also said between 30–50% of cancers could currently be prevented and that this could be accomplished by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. The cancer burden could also be reduced through early detection and management of patients who develop cancer as many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.
She congratulated the government for launching the five-year strategy and reiterated WHO’s support for the implementation of the National Cancer Strategy. She called on all development partners to support the implementation of the document.
Others present and who made remarks at the function included Dr David Soti, head of Department of Preventive and Promotive Health who gave an overview of the strategy to be launched; the County Executive Committee member for Health represented by Dr Ogaja and other CSO representatives and other partners who provided financial support.