By Tosin Ariyo
The Frist Global Health Leaders (FGHL) program affords young health professional students, residents, and fellows the opportunity to serve and train abroad in underserved communities for up to one semester. In doing so, they will bolster capacity in clinics in need of support as well as offer training to community health workers to promote sustainability upon their departure from these communities. As part of the program, they blog about their experiences here. For more information, visit our program page.
The initial aim of my main project was to review trends and surveillance on Non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Zambia. However, due to the unavailability of an NCD database and the availability of a cancer registry, the project was re-focused to review trends and surveillance on cancers in the country.
This project was particularly eminent because of the increasing trends of cancers among NCDs in developing countries, including Zambia. In Africa, cancers are the second leading cause of death from NCDs, this mortality rate is largely disproportionate from those in the developing world and is an added burden to the existing prevalence of communicable diseases. In order to fulfill the WHO’s mandate to address the growing pandemic by active surveillance and primary prevention, it is important to review existing surveillance activities and trends on cancer in the region.
To access the existing data, I reviewed the Zambian National Cancer Registry, culled data from a pre-reviewed dataset and further analyzed it using SAS and Epi Info. I also interviewed the registry staff to get a description of their surveillance protocols, challenges, and accomplishments. The purpose of the project was to create a report which describes Zambia’s effort in cancer surveillance and to identify cancer trends over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. The ultimate goal is to inform the WHO and national policy makers on which areas and strategies were to be prioritized in order to support cancer prevention and intervention activities in the region.