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Source: International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA

An imPACT Review expert in 2019 reviewing an x-ray with cancer control staff at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital in Sri Lanka. Experts now conduct such meetings with medical staff virtually. (Photo: G. Arias de Goebl/IAEA) 

Earlier this spring, the IAEA and its partners adapted in-country expert assessments of national cancer control capacities and needs to a virtual format, so they could continue during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Moving online these assessments, known as imPACT reviews, ensured continuous support to national counterparts around the world despite travel restrictions.

“Adapting the imPACT Review modality with our partners was essential so that we could continue to support our Member States by providing them with a baseline situation analysis and a set of recommendations to guide cancer control planning and investments. Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic and neither can our support,” said Lisa Stevens, IAEA Director of Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).

Rather than meeting face-to-face with stakeholders and conducting in-country site visits, the expert team uses a combination of virtual meetings, photos, recorded video and virtual live walk-throughs of health facilities. These virtual activities pave the way for necessary verification and high-level dialogue that will be carried out in-country once travel limitations are lifted.

Following requests from various governments, the IAEA, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have conducted  imPACT Review missions since 2005. These reviews help national authorities improve their cancer control efforts and have been conducted mostly in low- and middle-income countries. imPACT Reviews support the development of national cancer control plans, help to formulate workforce development plans and aid the mobilization of funds for cancer services.

imPACT Reviews that a delivefred partly online and partly physically are currently underway at different stages of implementation in six countries – Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mali, Nepal and Senegal. In Africa, where the effort is most advanced, the IAEA and the WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO) have been refining the approach since July. 

“COVID-19 has exacerbated non-communicable diseases in patients, leading to life-threatening complications. Our work on the cancer agenda must continue,” said Jean Marie Dangou, coordinator of the noncommunicable diseases programme at WHO AFRO. “The Ministries of Health have selected which sites to visit and which stakeholders to meet, which has guided our virtual engagement over the past few months. We are committed to visiting each country once global travel resumes to verify information gathered virtually and discuss results with stakeholders”.

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