Global HOPE – Our Journey One Year Later

May 31, 2018 | By John Damonti, President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation

How do you treat 11,000 new cases of pediatric cancer annually with only five pediatric oncologists?

With those numbers, it’s not surprising the mortality rate for pediatric cancer in Botswana, Malawi and Uganda in southern and east Africa is as high as 90 percent.

John Damonti, President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, shares perspectives and progress of Global HOPE over the last year.

John Damonti, President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, helped launch the Global HOPE initiative in southern Africa last year.

Last year, The Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer and Hematology Centers, Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation embarked on a journey to give new hope to children like these, and launched the Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence) Program.

Through a $100-million initiative led by David G. Poplack, M.D., director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers and Professor of Pediatric Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine, Global HOPE has the potential to dramatically improve the standard of care for children with cancer and blood disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. This capacity building program aims to build a comprehensive pediatric hematology-oncology healthcare infrastructure and collaborative network of local healthcare professionals to appropriately diagnose and treat children with cancer and life-threatening blood disorders in southern and east Africa.

What can we share about our journey thus far?

Since its launch, more than 2,000 children have been treated. While this is encouraging, we know there are many more children to be reached. To that end, a major community awareness campaign in all participating countries is being developed and implemented. The campaign is expected to increase public awareness and decrease the stigma related to a cancer diagnosis, while increasing knowledge of childhood cancer, including appropriate steps parents, caregivers, and communities can make to ensure early diagnosis and treatment.

Additionally, we have trained over 500 healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, technicians and other specialists. Over the next five years we aim to train over 4,000 more. Our first group of East African pediatricians will complete their pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship training from the Global HOPE program in Uganda.

I am inspired by the work of the team, and optimistic about the work that lies ahead. Dr. Poplack will be sharing a more detailed update on the progress and challenges later this year at the World Cancer Forum.

Our blueprint at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation for addressing health disparities is Secure the Future, an initiative launched in 1999 that created the largest pediatric HIV treatment network in the world. Just as Secure the Future gave new hope to children and families living with HIV/AIDS, Global HOPE is creating the potential for a brighter future for children with cancer and blood disorders.  

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Pediatric oncology nurses volunteer for training in Malawi, as part of Global HOPE, a Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation-sponsored initiative to build treatment capacity for children with cancer in southern and east Africa.