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Cancer Deaths a Growing Concern for Asian Countries

Newly launched report finds gaps in cancer preparedness in Asia Pacific and provide possible mechanisms by which policies and action can be taken.

In 2018, there was an estimated 8.8 million new cases of cancer and 5.5 million cancer-related deaths in Asia Pacific. The shift in population demographics to an ageing population will only see this burden grow in the coming years. The great diversity in healthcare needs across Asia Pacific countries as well as response to demands for cancer care are highly influenced by its stage of economic development.

Report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), supported by Roche evaluates the findings from EIU’s Index of Cancer Preparedness and lays out the realities of challenges in management of cancer among ten Asia-Pacific countries. These countries include; Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

As measured by the index, it was found that there is a strong association between income level and overall cancer preparedness. High-income countries were found to outperform upper- and lower-middle-income countries. The report also demonstrated findings that the overall score in the index was strongly associated with cancer control outcomes. This indicator was measured by the ratio of mortality to cancer incidence in the ten countries. These findings emphasise the need for better preparedness in managing the cancer burden in order to achieve better cancer outcomes.

As high as 70 percent of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries that were studied were found to be diagnosed at a late stage of the cancer. Preventive services as well as population-based screenings could help mitigate such cases.

Based on the report, Indonesia and Malaysia have demonstrated strong growth in health spending,

China was found to have the biggest reduction in out-of-pocket health expenditure in the analysis, it is still the only high-income country to meet World Health Organization-recommended spending for universal health coverage.

Jesse Quigley Jones, editor of the report said: “While there is clear progress at the planning level, the translation of policy into health service delivery and improved cancer outcomes requires more emphasis. While upper-middle- and lower-middle income countries are pulling together more comprehensive cancer control plans, our index showed weaker performance in health system governance and service deliver domains suggesting progress in addressing health infrastructure and service capacity is more limited. A renewed political commitment is needed to address the cancer burden.” [APBN]