Opening Address by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the Workshop on Leadership and Capacity Building for Cancer Control National Cancer Centre

Seoul, Republic of Korea
17 June 2013


Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, regrets being unable to join us due to a previous commitment. He has asked me to welcome you and deliver these remarks on his behalf.

In September 2011, the United Nation's High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases stirred worldwide interest in the problem of NCDs, including its socioeconomic impact.

The Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases clearly outlined the roles of different stakeholders and the critical importance of bold and unwavering action to address what is now the leading global cause of premature death and unnecessary suffering.

In fact, premature deaths account for nearly half of all noncommunicable disease (NCD)-related deaths in low- and middle-income countries of the Region. People are dying younger and most productive time of their lives.

This sad fact makes the NCD epidemic more than a health issue. It is a development issue.

Among NCDs, cancer is unique. There were more than four million new cases in the WHO Western Pacific Region alone in 2008.

Cancer is becoming a more important health problem in the low- and middle-income countries in the Asia Pacific region. The problem is also growing in high-income countries due to ageing populations and lifestyles changes associated with economic development and epidemiologic transition.

Cancer incidence is one of the key indicators in the proposed comprehensive monitoring framework for NCDs.

Cancer causes such fear in people that they forget that it is avoidable to a large extent. Indeed, many cancers can be prevented. Others can be detected early in their development, treated and cured.

Even with late stage cancer, pain can be reduced significantly. The progression of cancer can be slowed. Patients and their families can be helped to cope in many ways.

For starters, all countries can implement the four basic components of cancer control: prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment and palliative care.

A comprehensive cancer control programme covering these basic elements should reduce mortality and morbidity and improve the quality of life of cancer patients and their families.

The Western Pacific Region, has seen good progress on NCD prevention and control. Cancer control needs further support, for which building national capacity is a key component.

WHO and the International Atomic Energy Agency have developed an assessment tool that collates cancer data from participating countries.

WHO has developed a set of six modules to support national cancer control programmes. This workshop will use these modules as reference materials and will have interactive sessions and group work.

The National Cancer Centre (NCC) in the Republic of Korea is a WHO collaborating centre and has a well-established national cancer control programme. NCC will share their experience and expertise in cancer control.

We hope that the programme you are attending today will emerge as a structured training programme for building cancer control capacity in the Region.

I would like to thank our host, the Government of the Republic of Korea, for supporting this programme.

I look forward to hearing the outcome of this workshop, which will guide us all in our work.

Thank you.