Did you know that non-communicable diseases- including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease account for 2/3 of the disease burden in Latin America- even more than HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and other infectious diseases? Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Latin America- taking a heavy toll on the region every year. By 2030, it is projected that over 1.6 million people will die from cancer in this region if we don?t take action.
This is exactly why LIVESTRONG is launching two new programs in Mexico this year. Last week, LIVESTRONG staffers Rebekkah Schear and Leigh Harmon took the Global Cancer Campaign in Mexico to a whole new level with the launch of our first programs in the region.
Venturing into the vast, untouched issue of cancer stigma, we are launching our Anti-Stigma Initiative nationally, with our implementing partner, John Snow Inc. Through a mass media campaign which shares the stories of Mexican cancer survivors, and a focused educational outreach effort in four targeted communities, the Initiative will work to change myths and misperceptions around cancer and encourage a dialogue about the disease, breaking a silence that has isolated those suffering from cancer and shrouded communities in fear.
In an effort to enact change at the policy level in the country, LIVESTRONG in collaboration with American Cancer Society, kicked off the Patient Empowerment Initiative, which will empower cancer survivors to become cancer control advocates and prepare cancer organizations to plan and host a Cancer Survivor Forum. Bringing together survivors, media, NGOs, advocates, and representatives from the health sector and government, the Forum, which will take place in 2012 and will be planned and held by local cancer NGOs, will be an opportunity to give a voice to cancer survivors and the issues they face. If successful, it will not only launch a national call to action on cancer in Mexico, but will continue to galvanize a survivor advocacy movement in the country, potentially impacting cancer control policy at a national level, improving quality of life for people affected by cancer in communities around the country.
Both projects are one year pilots which are a continuation of the work we began in South Africa in 2010. We are excited to bring each of these projects to Mexico, to not only test each pilot in a significantly different cultural context, but to begin to shape each into a global model which can be adapted and replicated across the world to transform the way communities, organizations, and governments fight cancer.
Have you ever experienced stigma related to a cancer diagnosis? How did you empower yourself during your fight? Tell us your story.