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Provision of Palliative Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Overcoming Obstacles for Effective Treatment Delivery

Journal title
Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
Publication year
Hannon, B.; Zimmermann, C.; Knaul, F. M.; Powell, R. A.; Mwangi-Powell, F. N.; Rodin, G.

Despite being declared a basic human right, access to adult and pediatric palliative care for millions of individuals in need in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) continues to be limited or absent. The requirement to make palliative care available to patients with cancer is increasingly urgent because global cancer case prevalence is anticipated to double over the next two decades. Fifty percent of these cancers are expected to occur in LMICs, where mortality figures are disproportionately greater as a result of late detection of disease and insufficient access to appropriate treatment options. Notable initiatives in many LMICs have greatly improved access to palliative care. These can serve as development models for service scale-up in these regions, based on rigorous evaluation in the context of specific health systems. However, a multipronged public health approach is needed to fulfill the humane and ethical obligation to make palliative care universally available. This includes health policy that supports the integration of palliative care and investment in systems of health care delivery; changes in legislation and regulation that inappropriately restrict access to opioid medications for individuals with life-limiting illnesses; education and training of health professionals; development of a methodologically rigorous data and research base specific to LMICs that encompasses health systems and clinical care; and shifts in societal and health professional attitudes to palliative and end-of-life care. International partnerships are valuable to achieve these goals, particularly in education and research, but leadership and health systems stewardship within LMICs are critical factors that will drive and implement change.

Research abstracts