The Role of Health Care Workforce Education in Southeast Asia for Greater Cancer Control

Featured & Cover The Role of Health Care Workforce Education in Southeast Asia for Greater Cancer Control

Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) recently released The Role of Health Care Workforce Education in Southeast Asia for Greater Cancer Control, authored by Alexandra Zenoff, ASPI’s Research Associate on Global Health. In this new report, Zenoff argues that investing in primary health care systems is crucial for improving health equity in Southeast Asia, where many rural populations don’t have access to specialized treatments like cancer care.

“In 2019, noncommunicable diseases accounted for approximately 40 million deaths—mostly in low-and-middle-income countries — with that number expected to surpass 100 million deaths per year by 2025,” writes Zenoff. With an aging population, Southeast Asia will see an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases and an increased demand for long-term care to address them.

Cancer has been Thailand’s leading cause of death since 2000. “While the proportion of the population in Thailand that has access to the package of basic essential services is high, there is not necessarily a high proportion of the population that can access all relevant specialized services needed for cancer care,” says Zenoff.

To address this, Thailand established the Thai Foundation of National Health Professional Education Reform and has begun investing in a variety of workforce training programs to improve the ability of primary care providers to address noncommunicable diseases, like cancer, through integrated care. According to the report, preliminary research has shown a positive association between some of the of these training programs and health-related quality of life of patients with multiple chronic conditions.

The World Health Organization believes that up to 60 million lives could be saved globally by 2030 through expanding primary health care in low-and-middle income countries. “Within larger efforts to modernize primary health care systems in Southeast Asia, innovations in health workforce training are a key opportunity to expand and improve equitable access to cancer care,” notes Zenoff.

According to the report, “Improving health care workforce training to expand equitable access to cancer care requires a high-level multisectoral effort to consider the health care system as a whole to ensure alignment between updated training and how the system operates, including standards, available technologies, responsibilities of different players, accreditation, and accountability mechanisms.”

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