Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Childhood Cancer - November Workshop

One of AfrOx's ongoing aims is to enable twinning programmes between hospitals in the UK and Africa. In November, a team from the Department of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh had their first formal visit to the Childrens’ Cancer Unit at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana...

The twinning programme
Dr Lorna Renner, a senior paediatric oncologist in Accra, used to work with the team in Edinburgh and has since set up a busy unit to treat childhood cancer in Accra. The idea behind the twinning programme is that the team from Edinburgh provides teaching and training support using all means possible (visits for workshops, email, and if possible videoconferences); while AfrOx provides financial support and coordinates workshops and poster campaigns to raise awareness of childhood cancer throughout the country. It is vital that the content of the teaching and training is decided by the resource-poor country themselves, and not by the resource-rich nation.

The November workshop
The first formal workshop took place between 12-13 November 2010. The programme included talks on brain tumours, Wilms tumour and bone tumours; as well as supportive care, administration of chemotherapy, play specialist techniques and palliative care. The workshop was attended by  around 50 doctors, nurses and pharmacists from Korle Bu teaching hospital as well as from the hospital in Kumasi.

On the first day, topics included multidisciplinary team working, introduction to twinning programmes, bone tumours, brain tumours and play therapy techniques including guided imagery. Angela Edgar presented very important information on the setting up of a registry - without this it is impossible to assess improvements in diagnosis and survival rates and reduction in abandonment.

On the second day there were sessions on administration of chemotherapy and supportive care, an interactive play therapy session using patients and some siblings, and talks on Wilms tumour and palliative care. The latter was very much appreciated by all who attended.

Although hard work, the overall feeling of the RHSC team was that the workshop had been a success. The team from Edinburgh are all extremely keen to return to Ghana later in 2011 and to consolidate on what was achieved this time.

The visiting team was made up of Dr Emma Johnson, (Associate Specialist), Dr Angela Edgar, (consultant), Staff Nurse Fiona Bruce, Play Specialist Helen Veitch, and Vanita Sharma from AfrOx.

To find out more about our work, click here.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Ghana-Edinburgh Childhood Cancer Care Partnership

AfrOx has been working on an exciting new project to set up a health partnership between the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, which aims to help improve the treatment of childhood cancer in Ghana.  Dr Vanita Sharma, Head of Programmes at AfrOx, tells us more…

Cancer is often perceived as a disease of affluent, Western societies, but this is not true. Whilst close to 80% of children survive cancer in richer countries, outcomes in Ghana are currently very poor with survival rates around 20%, despite the fact that effective and inexpensive drugs exist. There are many reasons for this: 

1) low diagnosis rates - probably only 20% of total childhood cancer cases are diagnosed, partly because there are currently only two hospitals in Ghana which diagnose and treat child cancer – the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi; 
2) late diagnosis – a lack of awareness means that many children present with cancer that is too advanced to start potentially curative treatment; 
3) lack of specialist child cancer care  - there are only two qualified paediatric oncologists in Ghana; 
4)  lack of accurate child cancer statistics, which makes it impossible to identify key areas for improvement;  
5) abandonment of treatment in up to 50% of children – many parents are unable to fund drug therapy and find it impossible to cope with the practical, social and economic pressures of a child undergoing cancer treatment;  
6) lack of palliative care which means that children dying from cancer often fail to receive adequate pain relief.  

One solution to the problem of child cancer in lower income countries is likely to lie in the development of twinning partnerships between hospitals, medics and parent support groups in resource poor settings and those in developed countries. Such twinning projects have already achieved great successes in other parts of the world, for example, links between US and South American hospitals. Through training, mentoring and regular contact, these partnerships provide a two-way transfer of skills and knowledge to develop locally appropriate solutions which are realistic and achievable. Financial support is also provided towards the costs of training programmes, drugs, equipment and awareness raising campaigns. Importantly, the long-term sustainability of child cancer units is secured by facilitating the development of strong relationships with local NGOs and parent support groups.  

AfrOx, working in collaboration with World Child Cancer, is jointly funding a 5 year twinning partnership between the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Accra, Ghana and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC), Edinburgh, UK.  The aim of the programme is to help improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of childhood cancer in Ghana. 

The programme was set up as a result of a request from Dr Lorna Renner, who qualified at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC) in Edinburgh, and now heads up a dedicated paediatric oncology team at KBTH. Her team is committed to increasing survival rates for children with cancer across Ghana by developing expertise at the countries’ two specialist teaching hospitals, KBTH in Accra and Komfo Anokye in Kumasi, and creating satellite centres around Ghana where children can receive much of their treatment without having to travel long distances to Accra or Kumasi. This should enable more children to complete the full course of treatment. 

During an initial needs assessment visit to Ghana, we held discussions with staff at the KBTH unit, the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health to decide on the goals of the partnership. Our initial objectives include:
1) improving pain management and the treatment of  infections in children with compromised immunity due to chemotherapy
2) provide training for health professionals from hospitals across Ghana through a series of workshops held twice a year at KBTH. Doctors and nurses from RHSC will travel to Accra to attend the training sessions and lead workshops
3) ensure that adequate chemotherapy and palliative care drugs are supplied so that all children receive the appropriate medication.
4) create a child cancer database to provide vital data to improve treatment.
5) improve the retention of skilled nursing staff at the KBTH unit by providing a monthly salary supplementation.  

6) improve adherence to treatment by recruiting a community outreach nurse who will be responsible for following up patients who have failed to return for treatment.   

7) implement awareness raising campaigns to promote recognition of the early signs and symptoms of childhood cancer and to remove the stigma associated with the disease.    

We’re very enthusiastic about the potential of this twinning partnership. Please do check back for updates on how the project is progressing…

If you would like to donate to support AfrOx’s work, please click here.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Volunteers at AfrOx

AfrOx's work would not be possible without the support of our team of volunteers. AfrOx employs only two people - and they manage and oversee the implementation of our projects. Everyone else works voluntarily. The AfrOx Advisory Council comprises of twenty leading experts from the fields of health, business and media who design and oversee AfrOx’s projects on a pro bono basis. In addition, we have medical volunteers who lead our training programmes in Africa. Our Fundraisers, Administrator and Accountant are also volunteers. The vast majority of AfrOx’s work could not be achieved without the help of our volunteers. We would like to thank them for their invaluable support. Watch the short video below to find out more about our volunteers.

Professor David Kerr Discusses AfrOx's Work

In this video, Professor David Kerr discusses AfrOx's work, the growing problem of cancer in Africa and what AfrOx is doing to help.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Welcome to the AfrOx blog

By 2020 there are expected to be 16 million new cases of cancer every year, 70 per cent of which will be in developing countries.

African countries are the least able of all developing countries to cope, and in most cases a diagnosis of cancer leads to a painful and distressing death.  AfrOx believes that the time to take action is NOW.
Our mission is to partner with African countries and help them to implement comprehensive cancer care and prevention programmes.
On this blog you can follow our progress, meeting the faces behind the programmes. You can read posts from the doctors and nurses providing vital training in Ghana, find out the latest developments in the Oxford office, and keep up to date with each of our programmes.
 We believe that cancer in Africa IS a disease that can be tackled. But it won’t happen on its own. We hope that you will join us as we try to achieve this goal.

To find out more about who we are and what we do, visit our website.