Smoking?? Think many times!

Clarity Sibanda, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe
The International Cancer Day 2017 (4th February) comes at a time when the death rate due to the disease is increasing, notwithstanding the research going on to diagnose and cure more people. Several progressive governments are calling for nicotine tar lovers to quit smoking, which accounts for more than 20% of all cancer deaths worldwide.

Tobacco use increases the risk of at least 14 types of cancers: lung, larynx, oesophagus, mouth, bladder, stomach, bowel among others. Approximately 47% of cancer cases and 55% of cancer deaths occur in low and middle-income countries and, according to health experts, by 2030 these countries are expected to bear the brunt of an estimated 21.4 million new cancer cases per year, accounting for 60-70% of the global cancer burden. Research has found that tobacco use is the single biggest avoidable cause of cancer globally. Although nicotine is addictive, assistance with cessation is vital for many who want to quit. One of the challenges in controlling avoidable cancer deaths perpetuated by tobacco use is tobacco industry interference, coupled with poor responses by some governments, which seem to be more interested in accruing profits at the expense of people ‘s health. There is need for stronger unity and commitment across nations to raise tobacco taxes and discourage the consumption of tobacco in any form that is hazardous to health. Thankfully, many countries are working tirelessly to discourage smoking, In Ethiopia, the Parliament passed a law banning smoking in public places in 2014 and Mekelle is the first city to implement it. Those who break the ban face a fine of 1,000 Ethiopian birr ($50)—a small fortune in Ethiopia where salaries rarely exceed $100 a month. Then again, in order to accrue more revenue through domestic resource mobilisation, proposals have been made by Zimbabwe government to introduce sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

Breast cancer is another type of cancer that continues to rip the world of its human species. The first symptoms of breast cancer are usually an area of thickened tissue in the woman's breast, or a lump. The majority of lumps are not cancerous; however, women should get them checked by a health care professional earlier. Knowledge on health issues is crucial and the citizens have the right to access information and quality treatment without suffering economic hardships. During a recently held webinar hosted by CNS, Dr Navneet Singh, a lung cancer specialist from India, called for accurate and early lab diagnosis of cancer, which will go a long way in improving treatment success rates. “The Economics of Cancer Prevention and Control: Data Digest”, a publication of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), says that investing in prevention and early detection of cancer is cheaper than dealing with its consequences. A diagonal approach that focuses on the integration of health services, including integration of cancer prevention into primary health care, will tackle cancer specific priorities, thus optimizing the use of resources and increasing the capacity to respond to many diseases and population groups.

“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages says Sustainable Development Goal 3 and one of its targets (3.4) is to reduce by one third premature mortality from non communicable diseases (NCDs) through prevention and treatment and promote mental health well-being by 2030. But one year on, several developing countries like Zimbabwe are facing shortage of basic drugs with the poor being hit the hardest. Just as Margaret Chan, the Director General of WHO put it, “Universal health coverage is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer. It is inclusive. It unifies services and delivers them in a comprehensive and integrated way, based on primary health care.” World Cancer Day raises awareness on cancer and encourages its prevention, care and control. A stitch in time saves nine; hence the need for policy makers is to ensure easy access to health facilities so that they are able to deliver their promise of realizing SDG 3, among other goals. A healthy population relies on sustainable development, and sustainable development equally relies on a healthy population.

Clarity Sibanda, Citizen News Service - CNS
February 8, 2017