Message from General Secretary, FOCPRB

Message from General Secretary, FOCPRB
Prof. Md. Tajul Islam
General Secretary, FOCPR,B

Bangladesh is a populous country with more than 160 million inhabitants. Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in health and economic sectors with the improvement of health and economic indicators. There is significant reduction of maternal and child mortality including the morbidities and mortalities due to communicable diseases during the last decades. The average life expectancy at birth of Bangladeshi population is 70.6 years (Female: 72.6 years; Male: 68.7 years). Bangladesh is also progressing towards a middle income country as envisioned by Vision 2021, an agenda of this current government.

Though Bangladesh has achieved significant improvement in health sector, there are growing concerns about emergence of chronic diseases like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, chronic renal diseases, and others.

According to WHO, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths (1 in 6 deaths) in 2015. Approximately 70% of these deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries. Oral cancer is the eleventh most dominant cancer in the world. The economic impact of cancer is significant and is increasing. The total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at US$ 1.16 trillion.

In Bangladesh, cancer is the 6th leading cause of death and accounts for 10% of all mortality. An estimated 250,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed every year in Bangladesh. Oral cancer represents 20% of the new cases and is the 3rd leading cause of cancer. The hospital-based cancer registries indicate that, nearly 66% of cancer patients are within the age group 30-65 years, which is the most productive period of life. Bangladesh does not have population-based cancer registry to provide reliable data on cancer incidence, prevalence and mortality. It is therefore very difficult to have the real picture of the burden of cancer cases including their categories in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, facilities and resources available for detection and treatment of cancer are very limited compared to the needs. The cost of treatment and hospital care is also very high compared to the average income of general population. The population of Bangladesh is not covered by health insurance system. As a result, the out-of-pocket expenditure for health care is very high (67%), compared to other countries. Many of the families become devastated and pushed into deeper poverty to meet up the medical bills for cancer treatment. Our actions on cancer must, therefore, focus on prevention. The hospital care and treatment cost of cancer could be minimized through preventive activities, early diagnosis and appropriate care.

The oral cancer is mainly associated with chewing of betel quid, use of tobacco (cigarette and smokeless tobacco), alcohol consumption, and poor oral hygiene. Between 30–50% of cancers can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. The three pillars for prevention of oral and other cancers are behavioral change thorough health education, communication and motivation, early diagnosis and treatment. Combined efforts of government and private sectors are needed to combat the situation.

We have established this Foundation (Foundation for Oral Cancer Prevention and Research, Bangladesh) with the vision to prevent all the preventable oral cancer cases through creating awareness of general population and professionals (for early diagnosis and referral), and improving accessibility for early diagnosis and treatment. We also aim to do quality research related to oral cancer prevention and treatment, and help the decision makers for designing evidence-based interventions. We are keen to collaborate with national and international organizations/ institutions for collaborative research and other activities. Capacity development of the professionals to conduct quality research is another agenda. We have a plan to organize practical hands-on training on research methodology and data analysis. To improve accessibility of the poor for quality oral and dental care services, we have a plan to establish a low-cost dental care clinic at this moment. All these activities would be done with active participation and involvement of our experienced and dedicated members and advisors.

However, there are several challenges that we shall have to overcome. Among them, mobilization of resources, keeping the members motivated and engaged are the major ones. I believe we can easily overcome these challenges with the commitment and dedication that we have pledged for the Foundation. We are also ready to take the new challenges positively and go forward to fulfill the vision and mission of the Foundation.