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First of its kind study looks at the unique realities of breast cancer care in the Middle East

Tuesday, May 1, 2018/ Editor -  

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  • The Health Systems in Action: Breast Cancer in the Middle East’ (HIBA) study reviews all aspects of breast cancer care in health systems of five Middle East countries for the first time
  •  The study was conducted by Harvard University researchers, alongside leading experts from the region and launched at The Economist’s inaugural “War on Cancer Middle East” conference in Dubai, co-sponsored by Roche

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 1 May 2018:  The Health Systems in Action: Breast Cancer in the Middle East’ (HIBA) was officially launched today at the first ever ‘War on Cancer’ conference organised in the Middle East, co-sponsored by Roche.

Conducted by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in collaboration with country experts, the ‘HIBA’ study is the first of its kind to address the unique realities of breast cancer care in the region and will provide evidence-based policy options to optimise future breast cancer outcomes for patients. 

Countries in the Middle East are facing swift demographic, economic, nutritional, and socio-cultural transitions.

These changes result in rapidly increasing number of cases of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including breast cancer.

Breast cancer is currently the most common form of cancer among women in the Middle East and the numbers of people diagnosed with the disease is expected to double over the next two decades. 

HIBA is the first study to review all aspects of healthcare systems in relation to breast cancer from access to screening to diagnosis, treatment, follow-up and palliative care in five Middle East countries.

It’s hoped that by better understanding how the organization, financing and resource management of breast cancer influences the provision of services and outcomes for patients with breast cancer in the region, policymakers and healthcare professionals can assess how these can be strengthened to meet future increased demand.

The study is the result of 18 months’ collaboration between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and leading country experts from Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.

The results and findings are expected to be published later this year.

Roche – the world’s leading biotech company – provided an unrestricted grant toward the study as part of its commitment of building partnerships with key stakeholders to improve the healthcare landscape.

Roche’s objective is to ensure that all patients can access the best possible care for their disease, including diagnostics and medical treatments. Harvard retain full editorial control over the study and its findings.

Dr. Rifat Atun, Professor of Global Health Systems at Harvard University and the leading co-author of the report, said: “Breast cancer is a major public health issue that affects every country in the Middle East regardless of the specific economic and social context.

It is the most common type of cancer for women in the Middle East, representing between 21% and 43% of all female cancers in the countries we studied, often a higher percentage than the next types of the most common cancers combined, namely, colorectal, uterus and thyroid.

Despite all the progress they have made, health systems are struggling to effectively manage the rising burden of breast cancer.

The study findings provide decision-makers with options to optimise their health systems to deliver better breast cancer care in the region and improve lives of affected women.”

Dr. Muna Al Kuwari, Director of Specialized Care Management, UAE Ministry of Health & Prevention, and co-author of the UAE Country Report, said: “Cancer is a shared responsibility.

Only by working together will we be able to save lives.

The UAE National Vision 2021 highlights preventative medicine and aims to reduce the burden of cancer, whilst improving the healthcare systems readiness and responsiveness to address health risks.

The HIBA study is a first step and a positive one towards establishing a foundation for ongoing and future collaborations at country and regional level.” 

Ehab Yousef, General Manager, Roche Middle East, added: 'Exchanging best practice can help uncover local and region-specific solutions to improve patient care across the Middle East.

We are proud to support this ground-breaking study and we believe it will serve as an important resource for policymakers and other stakeholders to gain valuable insights and information about the present state of breast cancer care.

We are looking forward to working with these key partners in future to build on the study and improve people’s lives in the region.”

The study uses publicly available data, complemented by data made available by research collaborators, in each of the countries involved in order to develop a comprehensive overview of the health systems for breast cancer in those countries.

As part of its recommendations, the HIBA study recommends creating a regional research network, with a robust research portfolio in each country and regionally, to take stock of the current data and understand data gaps and needs.

The launch took place during the ‘War on Cancer Middle East’ organised by The Economist Events, part of the global English-language weekly newspaper, on 1st May in Dubai.


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