An ESMO Statement submitted to the 71st Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe welcomed the Resolution that was adopted ‘Realizing the potential of primary health care: lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for future directions in the WHO European Region’, which urges Member States to strengthen governance mechanisms for primary health care to ensure greater responsiveness to regional and local needs, and to prioritize financing and resourcing for primary health care. For cancer patients, primary healthcare services such as early diagnosis and screening are meaningful only if patients identified with cancer can access robust referral services across the entire continuum of healthcare to ensure timely access to secondary and tertiary facilities where cancer treatment is provided.
ESMO’s statement emphasised that strengthening primary health care and achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is important because health is a human right, not a privilege, and no cancer patient should be left behind without access to affordable quality cancer and palliative care services delivered by an adequate, well-trained, and well-equipped workforce.
The statement also urged WHO and Member States to prioritize high-impact investments in cancer care by accelerating implementation of the 2017 ‘Cancer Resolution’ (WHA 70.12) in order to reduce cancer deaths worldwide, yield broad economic gains, and provide societal benefits.
In the statement, ESMO further invited governments to draw upon ESMO resources for cancer management that can support achieving the 3 dimensions of Universal Health Coverage:
- The ESMO-ASCO Global Curriculum in Medical Oncology supports training the necessary workforce to ‘increase population coverage’.
- The evidence-based ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines can guide decisions to cost-effectively ‘expand essential health services’.
- The ESMO-Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale (ESMO-MCBS) can help prioritize cancer medicines to frame appropriate use of limited public and personal resources to ‘reduce the financial burden of health services’.