Circle of Life, a data and digital infrastructure project, was launched this January to support an early breast cancer detection program and provide analytics.
The project being piloted in Taguig City will help local government officials make data-driven decisions and provide quantitative data when requesting for healthcare-related funding at the local and national levels, according to Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, founding president of breast cancer advocacy group ICanServe Foundation and vice-president for internal affairs of Cancer Coalition Philippines.
Joining ICanServe Foundation in the multistakeholder collaboration are Taguig City; local healthcare software startup Dashlabs.ai; and innovative medicines company Novartis, which is headquartered in Switzerland.
Launched in the presence of Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines Alain Gaschen, Circle of Life supports ICanServe’s Ating Dibdibin program by generating analytics that can help identify gaps in cancer care and enhance monitoring and evaluation.
Meanwhile, Ating Dibdibin, which rolled out in 2008, has expanded into a full-scale breast cancer control program in ICanServe’s partner cities, including Marikina, Muntinlupa, and Taguig in Metro Manila; and Panabo and Tagum in Davao del Norte.
Ating Dibdibin promotes early detection, early diagnosis, access to timely and quality care, supportive care, palliative care, and patient navigation.
To sustain Ating Dibdibin, Taguig City, under the leadership of Mayor Laarni “Lani” L. Cayetano, passed an ordinance allocating funds and committing logistics and personnel to the program. Community health workers (CHWs), nurses, midwives, and doctors are trained on early breast cancer detection; CHWs are also trained to serve as patient navigators.
Through the program, the number of days between diagnosis and first day of treatment has been reduced from 10 months to 2 months or less.
INTEGRATED APPROACHBreast cancer is the most common cancer among Filipino women, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.
Adequate cancer care needs an integrated approach which should entail working throughout the whole continuum of care — from prevention, diagnosis, to treatment. An integrated approach involving multistakeholder collaboration is key in cancer prevention and control.
The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized that breast cancer most commonly presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast.
With this, women who find an abnormal lump in the breast must consult a health practitioner without a delay of more than one to two months even when there is no pain associated with it.
The WHO added that it will be important for women to seek medical attention at the first sign of a potential symptom to allow for more successful treatment.
“We face daunting challenges in the healthcare sector. But when we start working with patient groups, civil society organizations and local government units, definitely the problem becomes bite-sized and solvable, especially when there are strongly committed stakeholders,” said Assistant Secretary Beverly Lorraine C. Ho, Director for Health Promotion and Communication Service at the DoH.
Ating Dibdibin is one of two entries from Filipino patient organizations that were judged the inaugural winners of the 2022 Alliance and Partnerships for Patient Innovation and Solutions (APPIS) Innovator Program.
Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which represents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are at the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos.