By Toun Olateju, MD, MPH
Last week, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon was part of the history-making fourth global Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen. Over 5,500 delegates from over 170 countries met to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals and women’s health and empowerment.
On Tuesday morning, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon co-sponsored a breakfast meeting with Susan G. Komen aptly titled: “Delivering for Women: Making Women’s Cancers a Global Health Priority” that featured an outstanding panel. Panelists were Professor Sheila Tlou, the Southern Africa Regional Director of UNAIDS; Ambassador Sally Cowal, Senior Vice President of American Cancer Society; Ambassador Deborah Birx, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Ms. Celina Schocken, CEO of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon; and Dr. Judy Salerno, CEO of Susan G. Komen, who moderated the discussion.
The panelists shared their perspectives on effective strategies to integrate women cancers with maternal, sexual and reproductive health programs as a global health priority. The interactive discussion with the audience highlighted the need to demonstrate that cervical cancer prevention and screening were quick wins in achieving the sustainable development goals and how to globally elevate awareness around the preventative efforts to control cervical and breast cancer. Ambassador Birx stated: “Partnerships are critical to protecting women’s health. Together we can maximize our impact – providing care for both HIV and cancer.” Professor Tlou highlighted the need to make data available and accessible.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s Celina Schocken summed up that, “we need to work together in the field” and all noted that “prevention was key, and not vaccinating girls against the human papilloma virus (HPV) would be a missed opportunity.”
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon also took part in strategic meetings hosted by Cervical Cancer Action to develop a strategic framework and create global messaging about cervical cancer. The ‘Women and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD)’ exhibition booth was an opportunity to showcase our work alongside with several other partners in the NCD Alliance.
We returned energized and motivated in our work to support partner countries to achieve their goals for women’s cancer prevention, early detection and treatment programs. We hope that through strengthening collaborations and delivering a unified message, by the next Women Deliver conference, there will be at least one plenary session to address women cancers, which affect over 2.5. million women annually. In the words of Her Royal Highness, the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, “This is not a women’s agenda. It is an agenda for humanity.”
Dr. Olateju is a Country Program Manager for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon