Friday, August 28, 2009
Livestrong Global Cancer Summit
I’ve just returned from Ireland where I took part in the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit. Held at the Royal Dublin Society, the event attracted 500 delegates from 65 countries around the global. In attendance were government leaders, the heads of some of the leading cancer fighting organizations, chief executives of major corporations and individuals that are active in everything from early detection to assisting those diagnosed with the disease. There were also a large number of cancer survivors among the delegates.
Sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the summit was aimed at creating a clear call for action to address the global epidemic of cancer. By 2010, cancer will be the leading cause of death around the world. People diagnosed with cancer still face stigma and myths about the disease. The drain on personal finances and the broader economy is frightening. In a World Bank study commissioned by Livestrong, the annual economic impact of newly diagnosed cancer cases was pegged at $305 billion. Beyond the dollar impact, in many parts of the world the lack of medical facilities, equipment and health insurance means cancer goes undetected and untreated until it is too late. Then, many of the people with the disease are unable to get medications we all take for granted that can help make their remaining days less painful.
The Livestrong Global Cancer Summit opened on Sunday night with a reception at Dublin Castle that featured a welcome by Irish Minister of Health and Children Mary Harney and remarks by U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney.
On Monday, the program was focused around the growing cancer burden and what needs to be done to get governments to focus on the issue. Some of the speakers included Dr. John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society; Lynn Faulds Wood, president of the European Cancer Patient Coalition; Faisal A. Al-Fayez, former Prime Minister of Jordan; Olusegun Obansanjo, former President of Nigeria; Alojz Peterle, former Prime Minister of Slovenia; Dr. Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Secretary of Health for Mexico; Professor Jim Bishop, Chief Medical Officer for Australia; Mark Parker, CEO of Nike; Jonathan Thomas, president and CEO of American Century Companies; and Caroline Roan, president of the Pfizer Foundation.
On Tuesday, there were a series of working sessions on leadership, reach and innovation that featured a wide range of interesting work taking place around the world to help people with the disease. The panelists includedSamir Khleif of the King Hussein Cancer Center; Felicia Knaul, chief economist with the Mexican Health Foundation; Brother Charles Anothony of The Ormylia Foundation; Gabriel Madiye of The Shepherd’s Hospice Sierra Leone; Ian Garbett of the University of Papua New Guinea; and Dr. Lawrence Shulman, Chief Medical Officer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That evening a reception was held at the Guinness Brewery where the dramatic story of how Lance Armstrong got involved in fighting cancer and Livestrong was formed was told by cycling broadcaster Paul Sherwen, Nike executive Scott MacEachern and Lance Armstrong.
On Wednesday morning Pints for Prostates was featured as part of a breakfast briefing session on overcoming the stigma of cancer. Greg Donaldson, national vice president of corporate communications for the American Cancer Society moderated a panel discussion on cancer stigma featuring Dr. Xishan Hao, president of the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association; Dr. M. R. Rajagopal, founder and chairman of Pallium India; Dr. Alejandro Mohar, director of the National Cancer Institute of Mexico; Rick Lyke, cancer survivor and founder of Pints for Prostates; and Molebatsi Pooe-Shongwe, a cancer survivor and founder of BreastSens, a nonprofit breast health and health care rights initiative in South Africa.
Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Livestrong, and the entire Livestrong staff can be congratulated on running an impressive conference that was packed with information and energy. Lance Armstrong’s willingness to go public with his own cancer fight and then show the world that cancer can be defeated is an inspiration for anyone facing the illness.
Now comes the important part. Pressure needs to be applied to world governments to spend money to meet this rising threat. One of the statistics displayed during the meeting is that if the current trends continue that one in two people will face cancer during the next generation. We need research on a cure and more programs that help people diagnosed. In some parts of the world, cancers that can be treated and cured still kill because of the lack of care. This needs to change. We also need to have the courage to spend money to fight cancer at a time when the economy is struggling and there are so many other demands on resources.
The Livestrong Global Cancer Summit created the atmosphere for this to take place. Now the work begins to mobilize this energy.
You can see more about the event in Dublin at http://livestrongblog.org/.