Now that we have a firm grasp on what advocacy is, let’s put it in the context of breast cancer – and more specifically, within the framework of South Africa and its absence of a breast health policy, what the consequences of this are and how an equitable and effective breast health policy would change lives – and save lives.
Let’s take UNICEF’s definition of advocacy and fit it into ABC’s framework:
“Advocacy is the deliberate process, based on demonstrated evidence, to directly and indirectly influence decision makers (i.e. government), stakeholders (i.e. pharmaceutical companies) and relevant audiences to support and implement actions that contribute to the fulfilment of people receiving breast cancer treatment and survivors’ rights: accessible and equitable care, treatment and support.”
Below are just some of the current consequences of not having a breast health policy in place – most especially for the people receiving breast cancer treatment within our public health system:
- Cannot afford the treatment itself, and very often, even the cost of transport to and from the treatment centres themselves, especially in the rural areas.
- Do not have access to the information they need in order to understand their cancer and know how to cope with and manage their diagnosis, treatment and potential surgery and its aftermath.
- Long waiting periods between diagnosis and treatment resulting in negative treatment outcomes.
- Do not have access to psycho-social support for both themselves and their families.
- Are very often breadwinners (and even sole breadwinners) and face unpaid leave of absence and very possible unemployment as a result of time spent recovering from treatment and/surgery.
- Have cancers inadequately diagnosed because of poor quality diagnostic technology and must therefore face the dire consequences of incorrect or inadequate treatment and/surgery, as well as the aggravated risk of metastatic BC.
- Had they been sufficiently (or at all) educated about regular breast self-examination, may have discovered their lumps in efficiently treatable time.
- Do not know what their rights are as South African citizens, and therefore do not give voice to their needs, questions and right to ensure they get them met – fairly and equitably.
We need to ignite a revolution in the hearts of South Africans to call policy makers to task! Let us combine what we know about our current breast health crisis with what we know about what an equitable breast health policy looks like and why and how it will work!