By Celestine Okorie, Correspondent South Africa
Phakamisa, AstraZeneca’s access to healthcare initiative, focuses on lessening the burden of non-communicable disease (NCD) on the South African healthcare system, through the promotion of primary prevention, early detection of disease and access to care.
This week AstraZeneca announced it is expanding its Phakamisa Programme through public and private partnerships with multiple healthcare stakeholders to improve the health outcomes for patients in South Africa. The collaboration between community, civil society, government and private entities will focus on improving breast and prostate cancer management in the public sector and specifically address early detection of disease, promotion of primary prevention and access to care.
Breast and prostate Cancer are growing health problems in South Africa. Apart from non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 26 in South Africa. On average, five South African men die from prostate cancer every day, with more than 4,300 South African men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
The burden of cancer in South Africa is compounded by socioeconomic obstacles including a lack of awareness of breast and prostate health issues, cultural barriers and limited access to healthcare facilities. Additionally, many patients delay seeking treatment for symptoms. This has hindered efforts to combat the disease among lower-income communities, particularly those in the previously marginalized population.
In December 2010, AstraZeneca responded to this need and announced the launch of the Phakamisa programme. The programme, implemented in 2011, brings together different organisations to help reduce the burden of non-communicable disease on South Africa’s public healthcare system.
Specialist and Senior Lecturer, Department of Medical Oncology, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, Dr. Thulo Molefi reiterates the importance of awareness and early diagnosis to effectively manage cancer: “Cancer should be a communal conversation; its existence, diagnosis and treatment must not be limited to the urban cancer treatment centres; the treatment of this lethal disease might require expert knowledge but its awareness and screening does not. In a journey of a million miles, AstraZeneca’s Phakamisa initiative, in trying to increase cancer awareness, facilitate early diagnosis and fast-track pathways to treatment, is a step in the right direction.”
Commenting on the Phakamisa’s expansion and 10-year milestone, AstraZeneca’s Market Access Director and Phakamisa Executive Champion Ruth Field said: “The Phakamisa Programme is part of AstraZeneca’s Sustainability strategy to drive access to healthcare, and is focused on ‘uplifting’ care and improving treatment outcomes. We are passionate about empowering people with knowledge and the ability to make informed decisions regarding their health. After 10 years of implementation, the programme has reached over 1,63 million people through outreach activities led by community healthcare workers, with 19,700 women identified with breast issues. We now look forward to expanding our reach through our partnerships, ensuring that we support all levels of care and the communities they serve.”
Phakamisa, which means ‘to uplift’ in Zulu, is delivered through a three-pillared approach spanning Training, Awareness and Access, with a current focus on improving breast and prostate cancer management in the public sector.