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Strength through Partnership and Innovation: Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Update

Posted by On February 6, 2013
2012 was a busy first full year of operation for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) – the public-private partnership focused on prevention, screening and treatment of cervical and breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Over the past year, PRRR’s work has focused on Africa, where cervical cancer is the leading cancer among women and where most women have never been screened for cervical or breast cancer. In Africa, PRRR partners have focused on achieving three simple goals: reducing deaths from cervical cancer by an estimated 25% among women screened and treated through the initiative; increasing access to HPV vaccinations, as well as breast and cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment services; and creating integrated models that strengthen health delivery and health systems as a whole. While ambitious goals, PRRR has already made great strides over the past year. By the end of 2012 more than 27,000 women had been screened for cervical pre-cancer and cancer in PRRR-supported clinics in Zambia, and more than 1,000 women in Botswana. In addition, the African Center of Excellence for Women’s Cancer Control in Zambia has trained more than 60 health workers, including 12 from other countries in the region, in cervical cancer “screen and treat” procedures. And to help raise awareness about cancer services, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has supported the establishment of the Cancer Prevention Alliance of Zambia (CARPAZ), a consortium of seven local cancer advocacy organizations. In addition, the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon logo won a 2012 American Graphic Design Award. The logo was in the top 15% of over 8000 submissions. PRRR has a number of activities already underway in 2013 to continue the progress toward our goals in Africa. In January 2013 a group of experts from the American Society for Clinical Pathology visited Botswana to analyze the situation in the national pathology laboratory and to offer suggestions for strengthening pathology services in the country, including clearing the backlog of specimens.  In February, through a collaboration supported by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a group of Zambian doctors will visit the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to study state-of-the-art cancer treatment and to exchange experiences with their faculty counterparts.  In turn, M.D. Anderson faculty will visit Zambia later this year to share their expertise with colleagues on the ground. In PRRR priority countries, Merck Vaccines has supported Rwanda in vaccinating 135,000 against HPV – the virus that causes nearly all cervical cancer cases – and is moving full speed ahead with plans to support the Government of Zambia’s efforts to do the same for 50,000 girls over two years.  Susan G. Komen for the Cure is organizing community sensitization and advocacy initiatives to accompany the vaccination campaign to raise awareness about the importance of vaccinating adolescent girls and to reduce the stigma associated with a cancer diagnosis. Additionally, over the next three years GlaxoSmithKline will support Zambia’s effort to strengthen its palliative care system by donating 3 million doses of morphine sulfate and training health workers in its use in alleviating suffering for cancer patients. By the end of its second full year of operations PRRR anticipates deepening its work in Zambia and Botswana while officially launching in two new sub-Saharan African countries. Launched at the end of 2011 with four founding members, including the George W. Bush Institute, the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programs, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, PRRR now includes a broad range of corporate members, including Merck, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, QIAGEN, Caris Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, and IBM, as well as collaborating organizations.  Over the coming years PRRR will continue to welcome new partners and collaborating organizations while working to expand opportunities for action on women’s cancer challenges. This post was written by Doyin Oluwole, MD, FRCP, founding Executive Director of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, based at the George W. Bush Institute.