A report on cancer preparedness in Asia Pacific

| 15 Jul 2020

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently released a report Cancer preparedness in Asia Pacific: Progress towards universal cancer control. The report, sponsored by Roche, looks at different responses to the cancer challenge in Asia Pacific and the essential elements needed to enhance preparedness in the region.

In 2018, APAC had an estimated 8.8m new cases and 5.5m cancer deaths. Changing demographics associated with aging populations and changing lifestyles mean this burden is only set to grow.

Countries in the APAC region show great diversity in their healthcare needs and responses to cancer are highly influence by their stage of economic development.

High-income countries with established healthcare infrastructures are primarily dealing with quality-of-care concerns.

Upper-middle-income countries are refining their universal health coverage systems to close access gaps and ensure financial sustainability.

Lower-middle-income countries are setting up the foundations for an increasingly important cancer challenge.

The ten countries chosen for the study were based on various factors including size, income-level diversity and progress made towards universal health coverage (UHC): Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.

Key findings of the report:
- There is a strong association between income level and standards of care and mortality rates. High-income countries have high standards of care and lower mortality, while upper to lower income countries are grappling with closing access gaps or setting up the infrastructure for a cancer response and are yet to see the benefits of reduced mortality.

-Gaps in service availability in the middle-income group, particularly in rural or remote areas. Boosting service availability will require investment in equipment, specialists and infrastructure.

-Prevention and early detection of cancer should be prioritised. Given that as many as 70% of cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage in developing Asia, a combination of screening and early diagnosis strategies should be put in place.

-Healthcare spending remains below international standard in SEA, and it is only the high-income countries that meet World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended spending levels for UHC.


Diverse cancers call for diverse health policies

The prevalence of cancer types differs between economic groups. In high-income countries there is a noticeable incidence of colorectal cancer, a lifestyle-related condition common in developed countries. This is also seen in upper-middle income countries and increasingly in the lower-middle- income country. This trend demonstrates the way in which economic development and urbanisation gives rise to similar behaviours regardless of geographical location.

Jesse Quigley Jones, editor of the report said: “While there is clear progress at the planning level, the translation of policy into health service delivery and improved cancer outcomes requires more emphasis. While upper-middle- and lower-middle income countries are pulling together more comprehensive cancer control plans, our index showed weaker performance in health system governance and service deliver domains suggesting progress in addressing health infrastructure and service capacity is more limited. A renewed political commitment is needed to address the cancer burden.”


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