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Making health happen

Strengthening healthcare services, enabling access to care, improving patient outcomes

25 May 2022

Author: Barbara Nel, Astrazeneca Country President African Cluster.

“Leading change in strengthening our healthcare ecosystem” – the theme of this year’s Board of Healthcare Funders conference resonates with me.


Countries around the world are facing the devastating costs of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption it brought to patient care. Add to this the already heavy burden of endemic diseases like malaria, HIV and TB, NTDs and others, and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases and vulnerable African healthcare services are severely constrained. Now is the time for collaboration across the healthcare stakeholder spectrum to aid the recovery and strengthen the resilience of Africa’s health systems, putting the needs of the patient at their core.


This is AstraZeneca’s focus: the patient and the patient’s journey through the healthcare system. Our science focuses particularly on non-communicable diseases which disproportionately affect people in low- to middle-income countries where more than three quarters of the world’s non-communicable disease deaths occur.


In partnership with governments and other stakeholders we are working tirelessly to advance healthcare systems, helping to increase their resilience and sustainability and to improve patient outcomes. Finding new ways to prevent threats to health, to diagnose patients earlier and to treat people in their homes and communities minimising the time spent in large hospitals or clinics – to improve access and patient outcomes.


One such initiative is Phakamisa, AstraZeneca’s access to healthcare initiative in South Africa. Now in its 10th year, Phakamisa, which means “upliftment”, brings together different organisations and is helping to reduce the burden of non-communicable disease with breast and prostate cancer patients being the ultimate beneficiaries. The programme has reached over 1.63 million people through outreach activities led by community healthcare workers with over 19 700 women identified with breast issues.


At AstraZeneca’s Redefining Cancer Care: Accelerating Change Together Oncology Summit held in Dubai earlier this year, I was particularly struck by the words spoken by Senator Mutahi Kagwe, Cabinet Secretary of Health for Kenya, who in his opening address acknowledged that late-stage diagnosis has huge financial and societal implications as he reminded the audience that, “There may be Third World economies, but there is no such thing as Third World people. We are all First World people and deserve access to First World treatment.”
Of the almost 10 million cancer deaths each year, approximately 70% are recorded in low- and middle-income countries, while comprehensive cancer treatment is available in less than 15% of LMICs. With the global cancer burden estimated to reach 28.4 million cases in 2040, a 47% rise from 2020, and with most of the world’s population living in low- and middle-income countries, urgent action is needed to address inequalities in cancer screening and treatment. Phakamisa is playing a role in this. This year, we partnered with the National Department of Health, Breast Course 4 Nurses and Stellenbosch University to train a cohort of nurses on a Breast Care Course for Nurses programme. The initiative forms part of a larger strategic health project to increase the number of trained breast nurses in all clinics and hospitals throughout South Africa, in line with the Clinical Guidelines for Breast Cancer Control and Management. Patients are the priority of AstraZeneca’s Phakamisa initiative. Through capacity building programmes such as this we aspire to redefine cancer care, supporting early detection of disease and shortened referral pathways for breast cancer.


Our public health programmes in Africa also include eSihle which offers home-based care and support to prostate cancer patients; Healthy Heart Africa which aims to provide sustainable means of fighting hypertension in Africa, The Young Health Programme, our disease prevention programme with a unique focus on young people living in vulnerable environments and under-resourced settings, and the Africa PUMUA Initiative, which is improving paediatric and adult asthma management, strengthening local health systems, health worker capacity building, awareness and education and equitable access to medicines.


People matter and investing in healthcare to make health happen is investing in our continent’s people and our future. Working together, we can build sustainable, resilient health systems.


Veeva ZA-3550 Expiry May 2023