News & Perspectives

Joining forces on global health's biggest stage

At the 76th World Health Assembly, BMS joins forces to drive access to quality cancer care.

June 15, 2023     

Bristol Myers Squibb is delivering on its commitment to advancing access to quality cancer care and bridging the global health equity gap.

BMS was a key player on global health’s biggest stage last month, taking part in the 76th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) to help launch ambitious initiatives aimed at improving cancer care worldwide.

The WHA is a meeting of the world’s highest health-policy-setting body, composed of 194 Health Ministries from World Health Organization Member States around the globe. During the WHA, health policymakers and stakeholders gather at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

This year, BMS leaders from Global Policy, Advocacy and Government Affairs met and partnered with leaders in cancer and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) from the WHO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), academia and civil society.

WHO goal: Save 2.5 million lives from breast cancer

At this year’s Assembly, the WHO launched the implementation of its Global Breast Cancer Initiative, first announced in 2021 with the aim of reducing breast cancer mortality worldwide by 2.5% each year. 

Over 20 years, that would mean 2.5 million lives saved.

Breast cancer disproportionately affects low- and middle-income countries, owing to a lack of diagnostic capabilities, healthcare infrastructure and treatment availability: five-year survival rates for this type of cancer stand around 40% in Africa, and under 70% in parts of Asia, compared to over 90% in high-income countries.

The WHO is partnering with City Cancer Challenge (C/Can) to implement the initiative, and BMS is a core partner supporting the effort through knowledge sharing and funding support.

The initiative stands on three pillars, each with their own ambitious targets: achieve early detection (stage I or II) for 60% of invasive breast cancers, diagnose patients within 60 days, and ensure 80% of patients undergo full courses of treatment.

Amadou Diarra, senior vice president, Global Policy, Advocacy and Government Affairs, speaks at a panel discussion on pandemic preparedness for the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

Amadou Diarra, senior vice president, Global Policy, Advocacy and Government Affairs, speaks at a panel discussion on pandemic preparedness for the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

The impact of this important partnership could extend far beyond the area of breast cancer, said Amadou Diarra, senior vice president, Global Policy, Advocacy and Government Affairs.

“Breast cancer is a model disease,” said Diarra, “meaning that health system solutions framed for breast cancer may be applicable to other types of cancers and noncommunicable diseases.”

Leading the charge on quality indicators for cancer care

This isn’t the only way we’re working with C/Can, of which BMS is a long-term partner. Also launched at this year’s WHA was a new project to define indicators applicable to measuring quality of cancer care in low- and middle-income countries.

Bristol Myers Squibb is the only private-sector partner of this initiative, which was initiated by C/Can and the Institute of Cancer Policy (ICP) at Kings College London and is being done in collaboration with the WHO.

“No one group can overcome these enormous challenges alone,” said Diarra. “It’s only by joining hands with all stakeholders that we can start to move the dial, and once we have built momentum, even more important is to sustain that effort for the long haul.”

Existing metrics are designed to measure quality care in high-income countries, but these may not be applicable to low-resource settings. This initiative aims to define a measurement framework that is context-appropriate; wherever it’s used, it will effectively track health-system readiness and ability to deliver quality cancer care, and then track improvements over time.

The goal is to help government decision-makers and other local stakeholders in low- and middle-income countries to make evidence-based investments to improve the quality of cancer care in their respective countries, regions and cities.

Diarra points to the need for leadership across the board and says that’s why BMS is doing its part to help “raise the bar” in terms of quality cancer care in low- and middle-income countries. "What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get improved,” he said. “It’s fundamental to driving change.”

The Quality Indicators framework will pilot in two cities – Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Cali, Colombia – and later be expanded to others in the C/Can network.

Charting a clear path to combat NCDs

The WHA week was also an opportunity to reflect on collective achievements on the road to the UN’s 2030 goals, and lessons learned over six years of joint action through Access Accelerated.

Access Accelerated, started in 2017, brings together numerous biopharmaceutical companies to advance care for NCDs in low- and middle-income countries. This year at WHA, Access Accelerated launched a milestone report, Key Lessons in Advancing Access to NCD Care, which covers the collective’s impact across more than 30 countries since its inception and charts a path forward to tackle the growing global burden of NCDs.

Each year, NCDs – including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes – kill 41 million people, about 74% of all deaths globally.

And the burden weighs heavily on low- and middle-income countries, with more than 85% of premature deaths from NCDs occurring in these geographies, where inadequate healthcare systems often contribute to poorer outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these disparities, driving poverty and threatening progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

“Addressing the NCD burden amid such complexities requires strong, cross-sectoral collaboration,” Diarra said.

As a founding member of Access Accelerated, BMS is working with our partners toward a common aim: achieving SDG 3.4 of reducing premature mortality from NCDs by one-third by 2030. Since 2020, Access Accelerated partners have leveraged nearly $3.7 billion, and the initiative has resulted in new partnerships, public investment and policy reform for NCD prevention and care in dozens of countries around the world.

Since its inception at the World Economic Forum, Access Accelerated has demonstrated the potential for collective action on NCDs to contribute to systemic change and broader health goals, including universal health coverage (UHC) and primary care service provision. It’s doing this by consolidating resources and expertise from its members to support governments and local stakeholders in developing and implementing scalable and sustainable solutions that address barriers to care.

With the 2030 deadline fast approaching, there’s growing momentum to strategically leverage the insights from these past six years of partnership to make swift progress toward these targets.

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