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When Technology Meets Health: MERCK Cancer Control Program

Nairobi, Kenya: Merck - the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company has devised an e-diagnostic and consultation clinic at Kenyatta National Hospital and Machakos Hospital to aid cancer treatment in rural Kenya.

Merck e-health program which is part of Merck’s five-year Capacity Advancement Program (CAP), is designed to allow patients and healthcare providers in remote areas through using the power of IP and video conferencing to interact with Cancer specialists at Kenyatta National Hospital, in order to extend their cancer expertise to remote areas which will improve access to better healthcare hence improve cancer survival rate in kenya..

During the launch, Dr. Frank Stangenberg- Haverkamp, Chairman of Family Board and Executive Board of Merck Germany said “Merck e-Health initiative demonstrates our commitment to building healthcare capacity and improving access to innovative and equitable healthcare solutions and disease awareness for patients in rural areas across Kenya.”

At the launch of the Merck e-health Initiative at Kenyatta National Hospital, Cabinet Secretary of Health, Dr. James Macharia, stated “we are happy to partner with Merck to support Kenya national telemedicine program which will enable patient consultations with specialists in referral hospitals to help earlier diagnosis, quicker and better care”.

“Video conferencing technology takes into consideration the reality of Africa in which majority of poor population live in rural set-up with inadequate health facilities and less developed road infrastructure which are barriers to better healthcare especially in Cancer early detection and treatment,” said Dr James Macharia.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) by 2020 there are expected to be 16 million new cancer cases annually, 70 percent of which will be in developing countries where governments are least prepared to address the growing cancer burden and where survival rates are often less than half those of more developed countries.

In alleviating suffering, “Merck has tailored patient materials to raise awareness about early cancer detection and prevention to help control the disease and improve cancer survival rate in Africa.” said Ms Rasha Kelej Vice President and Head of Global Business Responsibility and Market development of Merck’s biopharmaceutical business Merck Serono.

“Last month, we started the Merck Cancer Control Program (MCCP) in partnership with Oxford University and University Of Nairobi to educate students and healthcare providers about early cancer detection and prevention. The program will be augmented by community awareness campaigns to contribute to reducing cancer incidence and improve its survival rates.  The program was kicked off in Uganda in April to provide medical education program and the same will be extended to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania this June,” Rasha Kelej said.

Merck, a leading company for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in healthcare, life science and performance materials, in partnership with Uganda Ministry of Health, Makerere University and Uganda Cancer Institute kicked off their first combined diabetes and cancer campaign in Tororo, Uganda in April this year, as part of Merck Cancer Control Program (MCCP).

The program is a new initiative of Merck’s five year Capacity Advancement Program (CAP) which now for the first time includes cancer. Merck has provided more than 4,000 free cancer education and diabetes screening to promote disease prevention and give them advice on how to lead healthier lives. By 2018 Merck aims to reach over 100,000 community members through the MCCP initiative.

“The Merck Cancer Control Program (MCCP) aims to partner with top experts across the globe to assist African countries in implementing comprehensive cancer prevention and control programs, This program will be rolled out in other African countries within the year and will be augmented by community awareness and strong educational programs for medical students across Africa.” Said Rasha Kelej

At the launch of the campaign Minster of State of Health, Sarah Opendi stated that most cancer patients report to the health facility when cancer is in the advanced stage which poses a challenge because nothing much can be done to save the patient’s life. This is partly due to the nature of the cancers since they have no symptoms in early stages but also due to our poor health seeking behaviors. “According to WHO, over one third of cancer deaths are due to preventable causes such as viral infection, poor nutrition and widespread tobacco use.  It is important to note that once diagnosed early cancer can be treated and cured. Uganda just like other developing countries faces a wide range of health system challenges and cancer is often not a priority in limited resource settings. Therefore the Ministry of Health appreciates private public partnership with reputable companies like Merck to promote key health guidelines and raise awareness about Cancer so that people learn how to detect and prevent it,” she added.

On her part, Rasha Kelej, noted that”By partnering with Ministries of Health and universities in Africa to implement our Cancer Control Program as a new initiative of Merck’s CAP, we hope to quickly achieve our objective of advancing cancer healthcare capacities and reducing the socioeconomic burden of the disease.”

Merck previously partnered with the Ministry of Health, Makerere University and Uganda Diabetes Association to carry out medical camps and nationwide diabetes awareness (SMS) text messages to healthcare providers and community members. Today for the first time in Africa, we address cancer with diabetes at the same campaign, which will help us to target the common risk factors for Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

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