Bangkok, Thailand, 10.07.2020
New EIU report reveals Thailand’s potential and readiness in cancer planning to tackle ongoing cancer burden
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently released a new report Cancer preparedness in Asia Pacific: Progress towards universal cancer control, sponsored by Roche, which reveals progress made on addressing the complex challenges in cancer care across 10 countries in Asia Pacific.
This Asia Pacific report reveals the complexities of the cancer challenge faced by ten countries, comprising of Thailand, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam. Drawing insights from in-depth interviews with ten regional experts in cancer and universal health coverage, the report focuses on three key factors including Policy and Planning, Care Delivery and Health Systems and Governance. The results ranked Australia the highest based on overall score, while Thailand is 6th out of the ten countries listed on the index ranking.
The report also recorded interesting insights from upper-middle income countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, which received very high scores in policy making and planning and is positioned in the higher end of the rankings. However, it is important to note that effective implementation of the cancer care plan remains a challenge many countries still have to overcome to achieve better outcomes.
“We are encouraged that countries across the region are increasing their focus on cancer preparedness from a policy perspective and making positive progress,” said Rachel Frizberg, Area Head Asia Pacific at Roche Pharma. “However, we need to collectively strengthen our efforts to implement these policies and achieve better outcomes for patients. This is even more apparent in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted all areas of cancer care.”
Dr. Suleeporn Sangrajrang, Deputy director, health system development, National Cancer Institute, Department of Medical Services, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand revealed, “Thailand ranked 4th in policy making and planning, and received the highest score regarding its implementation of universal health coverage (UHC) – tied with Australia, South Korea and Japan.”
Cancer continues to remain an increasing health concern in Asia Pacific. By 2030, cancer incidence in the region is expected to increase by around 35% - with mortality rising by nearly 40%1. Despite emerging policy and institutional foundations for a cancer response, the report shows that excess cancer mortality and late diagnosis remain a major challenge for many countries in the region2. Moreover, the three types of cancer that recorded the highest mortality rate in Thailand in 2018 are lung cancer, liver cancer and breast cancer.
Thailand’s results for 2020
- Policy and Planning
Thailand continues to have a relatively strong National Cancer Control Plan framework. For the second year in a row, the country ranked first in oncology research with the added efforts to continue the introduction of policies to reduce unhealthy lifestyles and harmful alcohol use. Additionally, Thailand also implements the process of monitoring and evaluating the progress to ensure efficiency and success of the plan.
The key aspect Thailand has to focus on to achieve better outcomes is to promote the delivery of patient-centred care via patient organisations, integrated cancer care, and rehabilitation services. In addition, Thailand should implement efficient budget allocation and establish a comprehensive cancer registration across all areas within the country in order to provide a reliable source of data to create long-term sustainable planning of cancer screening and treatment.
- Policy and Planning
However, a key area of future focus is in patient-centred care where Thailand ranked joint 10th of 10 countries alongside India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Thailand can boost its ranking by introducing policies that ensure coordinated and integrated cancer care across multidisciplinary teams and developing national clinical guidelines for long-term follow-up, rehabilitation and return-to-work for cancer survivors in conjunction with expanding the capacity of radiotherapy equipment in Thailand’s health system and increasing the numbers of clinical oncologists and cancer workforce.
Furthermore, no change has been made to Thailand’s national screening programmes in the past 12 months, signaling an urgent need for the country to strengthen its screening services for cancer and promote early diagnosis. The report also suggests Thailand should be equipped to provide mammography, faecal occult blood test and bowel cancer screening services at the public primary healthcare level and promote health education regarding the importance of screening and treatment, in addition to promoting health-seeking behaviours to further improve outcomes.
- Health Systems and Governance
The introduction of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programmes in Thaland has been praised and resulted in outcomes related to a drop in health expenditures, reduced child mortality and increased uptake of antiretroviral therapies and renal replacement therapy. It has also been beneficial to productivity, by reducing obstacles to work due to sickness.
Despite belonging in the upper-middle income group, Thailand has implemented strong and comprehensive UHC programmes, even with limited resources available, and subsequently achieved the same level of quality as higher income countries.
Farid Bidgoli, GM for Roche Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos stated, “Moving forward we need to raise the urgency of developing complete cancer registries in order to implement sustainable and long-term planning for cancer. It is also imperative to overcome challenges in sustainable financing of policies and increasing public health care spending to close the gaps in cancer care, in addition to improving system efficiency and prioritization as well as implement patient-centered care. The challenges highlighted in this report cannot be tackled in isolation, particularly in these extraordinary times, with health budgets stretched and services under strain”
“On behalf of Roche, we are committed to working in partnership with the Thai government and health authorities to develop sustainable policies and programmes for addressing the gaps illustrated by this latest report to improving outcomes for cancer patients.” Farid concluded.
For more information on the Cancer preparedness in Asia Pacific: Progress towards universal cancer control report, visit https://worldcancerinitiative.economist.com/cancer-preparedness-asia-pacific
 Ferlay J, Ervik M, Lam F, Colombet M, Mery L, Piñeros M, Znaor A, Soerjomataram I, Bray F (2018). Global Cancer Observatory: Cancer Today. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer. Available from: https://gco.iarc.fr/today/online-analysis-table (Accessed June 2020).