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EquityCancer-LA, a research project to improve equity in access to early cancer diagnosis, is launched


The project "Improving equity in access to early diagnosis of cancer in different health systems in Latin America (EquityCancer-LA)", which will be developed with entities from six different countries, was launched on 10 May.

Delayed diagnosis of cancer leads to high morbidity and mortality, which affects the most vulnerable groups the most. Given this reality, the Horizon 2020 programme chose the project "Improving equity in access to early diagnosis of cancer in different health systems in Latin America (EquityCancer-LA)", led by the Research Service of the Consorci de Salut i Social de Catalunya (CSC), which began on 10 May with a seminar inaugurated by representatives of the different institutions involved: Fundació Sant Joan de Déu (Spain), Nova Lisboa University (Portugal) and Københavns Universitet (Denmark), at the European level; and the University of Chile (Chile), Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Colombia) and Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (Ecuador), in Latin America.

The aim of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of a care integration intervention in improving access to early diagnosis of common cancers in health service networks in Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. This type of intervention, based on strengthening primary care for cancer diagnosis and coordination between levels of care, is increasingly recommended by national cancer control plans and international organisations. However, they have been introduced mainly in high-income countries. To achieve this objective, a participatory, interdisciplinary, mixed-methods research will be implemented with two branches: a quasi-experimental (pre-post) design and a case study. It also envisages the adoption of ICT-based tools to advance research activities, if necessary in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This research is expected to contribute to improving access to early cancer diagnosis and thus increase survival rates, quality of life and productivity in Latin America, where cancer morbidity and mortality remain high due to delayed diagnosis.

At the inauguration, which took place through a virtual start-up in which health authorities from different countries were invited, as well as representatives of the European Commission, the international nature of the project was pointed out after the coronavirus pandemic and in this line Dr. Vázquez, director of the CSC Studies Service, insisted that with the pandemic this issue "becomes more relevant, since inequalities in access to health services have increased".

It was also recalled that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set early detection of cancer as a priority and that this research "will have an impact on cancer early detection policies as it will generate evidence on the issue", and furthermore, "we will propose interventions in each territory". The inauguration was attended by Ioannis Vouldis, scientific officer of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) of the European Commission, as representative of the European body that chose this project within the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme.

The EquityCancer-LA project is a continuation of research on health service integration, initiated by the international Equity-LA and Equity-LA II projects, which has resulted in numerous publications, but also in the development of conceptual frameworks and instruments for health service evaluation, and manuals and recommendations. These tools can be used to identify areas for improvement in organisations and also for benchmarking.