Improving cancer registries in the Middle East

Improving cancer registries in the Middle East

  Hedieh Mehrtash It is ironic when looking at modern cancer registries in the Middle East that cancer detection and registration can be traced back to papers from 2600 BC Egypt, citing Imhotep’s discovery of breast cancer cases . Today however, numerous barriers exist to dissemination of information regarding the burden of cancer in the region. In order to coordinate effective cancer care, a country must be able to identify its cancer burden and then use the data to act accordingly. A national cancer registry is the first step to achieving this. A systematic collection of data on cancer and tumors, cancer registries is a crucial tool that provides detailed information about cancer patients and the treatments they receive, thus informing requirements for infrastructure, medical supplies, and other health system inputs. The WHO highlights that cancer registries allow for better early detection programs, palliative care services, and the improvement of diagnosis and treatment. Regional information on cancer epidemiology in the region is available via Globocan, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Middle East Cancer Consortium, a collaborative center with the US National Cancer Institute. The estimates from these international and regional databases are pooled from various national sources that are not readily available to the public. With no access to the disaggregated data, questions remain over the reliabilty and vaildity of the data e.g. what populations were captured during data collection, and whether or not clinical diagnosis was classified correctly. WHO guidelines specify “dissemination of results and free access to data” as a core role of population-based cancer registries, an undertaking that would address the ambiguity around regional cancer...
HEYA launches childhood obesity campaign in Kuwait

HEYA launches childhood obesity campaign in Kuwait

  Mariam Bhacker & Hedieh Mehrtash When I spoke to Dalal Albohamad for the first time it was over a frustratingly bad internet connection between a Ban Suan apartment in Chiang Mai and a bustling, noisy Starbucks in Kuwait. Our technological issues however could not dampen the outpouring of enthusiasm and excitement that ensued during our conversation. We were discussing the launch of “HEYA”, a multidimensional media advocacy campaign targeting the prevention of childhood obesity in Kuwait – (dubious) title-holder for the highest rates of child obesity in the world. Off the top of her head, Dalal, who is HEYA’s Associate Program Manager, was able cite the frightening statistics from a 2011 study which revealed that 50 percent of students between the ages of 13 and 15 were overweight, 22.6 percent were obese, and only 21 percent were considered physically active. Forty eight percent also ate fast food more than three times a week. The health effects of obesity beget a vast range of medical consequences including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, early menarche and menstrual problems, fatty liver disease, as well as psychological and social consequences. Separately and collectively, these problems have lasting and devastating effects on individuals’ lives. The current health system’s curative approach cannot reasonably tackle this immense health fallout, and hence HEYA’s preventive focus is a welcome and timely initiative. The launch Launching today, May 11, at the Kuwait National Library, the first year of the HEYA campaign will focus on raising public awareness of child obesity and promoting the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. This initial awareness phase will provide a...
The smartest boy in the camp

The smartest boy in the camp

  By Laila Soudi In unrestrained, impetuous episodes, Dabbos, 22, leaves his makeshift home of Al-Husn Refugee Camp in Jordan to destroy everything in sight. He does this during his one hour of freedom every day, before and after which he is not allowed to set foot outside. At home, a steel chain tenaciously holds him to the ground and restricts his mobility. In first grade, Dabbos had a specific task every night: before he and his siblings went to bed, he would read aloud to his family from one of the Arabic books stacked at home. At the age of five and a half, Dabbos not only read in Arabic but was also beginning to read in English. As far as his mother was concerned, this made him the smartest little boy in the camp. A few months before Dabbos turned 6, he fell and hit his head while playing soccer with his neighbors. His mother remembers only rushing to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) clinic amid tears and prayers. An hour later, Dabbos was diagnosed with epilepsy. His mother, in turn, was given instructions pertaining to her son’s newly prescribed medications: more than 2,600 mg of various antipsychotic and anticonvulsant medications daily. That night, Dabbos futilely attempted to fulfill his task of reading. He was not able to do so successfully, as he now suffered from a total reduction of spoken and written language. Dabbos has not read a word since the day of the incident. And so prayer supplanted storytelling in their house. Convinced that Dabbos’ condition suggested a demonic etiology, the family...