Celina Schocken, whose organization Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon seeks to improve the treatment of breast and cervical cancer, said they faced an even more fundamental problem because patients were often ashamed to admit they had these diseases. “We need to address the stigma for the women and their communities, so that their husbands and families support them to come forward for testing and early diagnosis.”
The Novartis Access program also offers capacity-building activities to support healthcare systems in preventing, diagnosing and treating chronic diseases.
A friend in technology
Many participants said they believe innovative use of technology has an important role to play in addressing the challenges of chronic diseases.
Edward Kelley, Director of the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at the World Health Organization, said: “In this idea of providing more care that’s better tailored to people and their needs, we have a friend in technology.”
In particular, a number of speakers said the widespread availability of mobile phones, even in relatively poor communities, provides a ready platform for gathering and sharing information.
Alma Adler of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said mobile phones played an important role in ComHIP, another project supported by Novartis Foundation, which aims to improve the management of hypertension in Ghana. Patients are encouraged to manage their condition through regular voice or text messages reminding them to take their medication, attend appointments, exercise regularly, and avoid fatty or salty foods.
Another approach was outlined by Paddy Partridge from microinsurance specialists BIMA, who provide low-cost health insurance to 25 million people worldwide using mobile phones to collect subscriptions and pay claims to customers, even if they have no bank account.