Prof Lorna Renner
About Jon Rosser
Jon joined World Child Cancer as Chief Executive in 2015. Since then World Child Cancer has grown significantly and now reaches over 6,000 children with cancer every year, working in 12 countries.
Previously Jon lived in Nepal organising a post-earthquake emergency response for Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), and was VSO Interim Country Director in Sierra Leone. Jon has worked for Save the Children, and was UK Director of VSO, managing UK fundraising, recruiting volunteers and leading the UK Advocacy and parliamentary liaison functions.
About Prof Lorna Renner
Lorna is the Head of the Paediatric Oncology Unit at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
Korle Bu is the main teaching hospital in Ghana and one of only two providing comprehensive paediatric oncology services in the country.
She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Child Health, University of Ghana Medical School, a trustee of World Child Cancer, the medical lead for their Ghana programme and the immediate Past Africa Continental President of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology.
Lorna undertook some of her training in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, UK and during her time there made long-lasting professional contacts and friendships which led to the creation of the twinning partnership between the hospital and the unit at KBTH.
CEO of World Child Cancer, Jon Rosser, and paediatric oncologist Prof Lorna Renner in Ghana, join Alberto Lidji to talk about their UK Aid Match campaign and work in the developing world
World Child Cancer supports and helps children with cancer in low and middle-income countries. Jon Rosser notes there’s a large disparity in childhood cancer survival rates in the developed world – where it’s approximately 80%-85% -- versus the countries they work in, where childhood cancer survival rates are closer to just 10%. In many cases children die without even getting a diagnosis.
At the time of this podcast’s airing (27 October 2019) World Child Cancer were running a UK Aid Match campaign up until 21 January 2020, whereby every £1 donated by UK-based donors was being matched 1:1 by UK Aid.
World Child Cancer was founded 11 years ago and today works in approximately 12 countries in the developing world, including Cameroon, Ghana, Mexico, the Philippines, Indonesia and Kenya.
They focus much of their efforts in twinning hospitals in developed countries with hospitals in the developing world. They also get doctors and nurses to volunteer and travel to the frontlines.
Prof Lorna Renner notes that in Ghana they work closely with local stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, and World Child Cancer’s approach is collegial and in tune with local needs – it’s not a top-down approach. Rather, they listen careful to the needs and opinions from local partners and stakeholders.
She goes on to say that in Ghana there is a population of 29 million people – 40% who are under 15 years old. They expect at least 1,000 cases of childhood cancer to report a year, but they only have 2 comprehensive childhood cancer centres in the whole of Ghana, and between these two centres they only see approximately 300-350 children a year, so there’s a very large portion of children with cancer who don’t even reach these centres.
Geographical distance is a problem. And, out of those who have cancer and who do come for care, they also face the challenge that childhood cancer is not covered by the national health insurance scheme in Ghana.
So, World Child Cancer helps with funds for diagnostics, treatment costs, transportation costs, and various other aspects of supporting children with cancer. They also focus much attention in raising awareness and engaging with political stakeholders. They provide awareness training for health workers in Ghana so they can better detect the early warning signs of childhood cancer and improve the likelihood that children with cancer are detected early. The provision of funds to help children and their families travel for treatment is also incredibly important – many have to travel, repeatedly, for hundreds of miles.
Jon notes that working in partnership is important. Hospitals and doctors in-country are key partners. This year, World Child Cancer have also started a partnership with UBS, who have been very supportive – enabling them to build a project in Africa to train new paediatric oncologists and specialist nurses. They’re now starting a regional training hub in Africa.
World Child Cancer identifies doctors in developed countries who are at the top of their profession and encourages them to volunteer and provide their skills and expertise. This can take various forms, from providing diagnosis remotely via online sharing of information, to travelling to the developing world for week-long trips.
By travelling to the frontlines, doctors learn much of what can be achieved in resource settings that are much more constrained than what’s available in the developed world. Travelling to the frontlines also helps them exchange knowledge, provide training, mentoring and engage in peer-to-peer support.
World Child Cancer also works closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO), who have just announced a new initiative for childhood cancer aimed at increasing childhood cancer survival rates in the developing world to 60% by 2030, the target year of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Key takeaways: Lorna notes that together we can offer children with cancer the opportunity to achieve their potential and live life to the full. And, Jon adds that because childhood cancer is very often curable, it is a moral imperative that we get treatment to all the children who currently die from it who could be cured.
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