Maltese National Cancer Plan
Hon. Dr Joseph Cassar, Minister for Health, the Elderly and Community Care, photo: Ministry of Health
Malta and France signed an agreement for cooperation in the health sector that came into force in 2001. In the framework of this Maltese-French agreement, Hon. Dr Joe Cassar, Minister for Health, the Elderly and Community Care, then Parliamentary Secretary for Health headed a delegation to France in March 2009 to assess opportunities for collaboration between the two countries in the fight against cancer.
Following this meeting and at the request of the Maltese authorities, a team of specialists from the French National Cancer Institute came to Malta in March 2010. The aim was to offer French expertise in this field to the Ministry of Health in charge of elaborating the Maltese National Cancer Plan. The French team assessed the proposed objectives especially the ones related to research, centralization of competencies, modernisation of equipment and the importance of screening. The team also gave input regarding prevention, palliative care, and mobilisation of new treatment techniques in order to increase the life expectancy of patients and provide them the best possible quality of life.
Other proposals made by the French experts included the launch of a study on the stages of cancer as a prerequisite to the implementation of consistent screening programs. The expert team also encouraged the full use of the strengths of Maltese research and welcomed the effort of consolidating care, which will result in the creation of a new oncology service to help improve care and quality of life of patients. Finally, the advantages of establishing a committee comprising of representatives of professional and patient organizations was highlighted.
_ One of the members of the French team, Dr. Christine Bara, will be present during the launch of the Maltese National Cancer Plan 2011-2015 Prime Minister Dr. Lawrence Gonzi on 8 February 2011.
Dr. Christine BARA, Director for Care and Patient Life , INCa – National Cancer Institute holds a M.D. in public health, MSc in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. A university graduate in pediatrics, epidemiology and statistics, Christine Bara was between 2001 and 2004, medical councilor and project manager at the French Ministry of Health – Directorate for hospital and care organization. Dr. Christine BARA joined INCa in 2004 and has been INCa’s Director for care and patient life since October 2007.
She replied to questions from the French Embassy:
1) Statistics show that one Maltese citizen dies of cancer every day. Can you explain your view on the Cancer Plan?
The comprehensive national cancer plan adopted by Malta promotes efforts to achieve the following aims:
• to save more lives
• to ensure people with cancer get the right professional support and care as well as the best treatments
• to build for the future investment in the cancer workforce, including research activities, to ensure that cancer care in Malta maintains the desired and expected standards.
The CCP of Malta provides for commitments at a national level to ensure improvement in and the effectiveness of cancer care:
• a focus on health promotion to address the risks for cancer: lifestyle, environmental, occupational, socio-economic factors
• a consolidation and improvement of the current service provision targets: waiting times for diagnosis and treatment
• an extra investment and efforts in the hospital level and specialist palliative care sectors.
2) You and your colleagues were involved in the critical appreciation of this Cancer Plan. Can you tell us in what France has to offer in the fight against cancer?
Cancer is a major public health issue on a global scale. Designing and implementing a successful cancer control plan and reducing inequalities in access to prevention, early diagnosis and quality care remains a challenge faced by all countries. In this respect, it is important to learn from other’s experience across the world. France launched its first CCP in 2003 and is said to have, with England the most comprehensive CCP. We are committed to fostering exchanges and collaboration worldwide, sharing experience and meeting the cancer control challenge. In this respect we have bought our technical expertise to Malta for their CCP. France has also achieved important results, thanks to its NCCP in terms of oorganization of health systems to comprehensively deliver cancer control and for example has a unique network of diagnosis platforms that perform large scale molecular testing of tumors for a nation-wide access to targeted therapies.
3) Cancer is the scourge of our times. Do you think it can be fought and won over in the coming years?
The inherent complexity of the fight against cancer and the burden of the disease make it one of the most serious threats to public health in Europe and globally. Nevertheless, in France one observes a global positive trend in patient survival, with more than 50% of patients that survive and 38% that are completely cured, 5 years after diagnosis.