Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD, IAHPC Advocacy Officer for Human Rights and Palliative Care, reviews the 5th International African Palliative Care Conference held in Kampala, Uganda from 16 to 19 August 2016.
The August highlight for IAHPC policy and advocacy was our participation at the 5th International African Palliative Care Conference, ‘Differentiated Care for Diverse Communities.’ Set in Uganda, the conference focused, among other things, on how countries and non-governmental organizations can help one another to implement the historic 2014 World Health Assembly Resolution on palliative care. The IAHPC delegation, headed by Prof. Dr. Lukas Radbruch, Chair of the Board of Directors, included Dr. Tania Pastrana, Research Advisor and President of the Latin American Palliative Care Association ALCP, Program Manager Ms. Genevieve Napier, and myself. We supported 15 traveling scholars and participated on multiple panels. Genevieve signed up 60 new or renewing members!
IAHPC was well represented at the 5th International APCA Conference in Kampala – pictured here are some of the grantees, staff and chair of the board, with other delegates.
Front row (left to right): Tania Pastrana (IAHPC Research Advisor) with grantees Valerie Massdorp, Eunice Garanganga, and Eunice Omoyeni.
Second row (left to right): Grantees: Durojaiye Omowumi, Bosha Mildred, Lukas Radbruch (IAHPC Chair), Anita Esenam Agbeko and Micheal Owusu-Ansah.
Back row: Clint Cupido, grantee, Katherine Pettus and Carlos Centeno (Principal Investigator, Atlantes Program, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Navarra).
A complete list of IAHPC grantees appears at the end of this article.
I attended the pre-Conference session of African Ministers of Health and on Palliative Care, where, after much discussion on their plans for increasing access to quality palliative care services for the next three to five years, ministers unanimously adopted a consensus statement for palliative care integration into their national health systems. The Consensus Statement can be found here.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, Dainius Puras, spoke at the Minister’s session as well as at the Opening Plenary of the conference. He stated unequivocally that,
“The right to palliative care, as a human right […] is among the highest priorities of my mandate. Although there is convincing evidence as to the effectiveness of palliative care services, three quarters of the world's population still have limited or no access to pain relief and other obligatory components of palliative care services. In my reports and other contributions, I continue to remind States and other stakeholders of their obligations to ensure that all individuals – representing all age groups, living in all continents and all countries, and facing different health conditions – can access palliative care. This obligation is at the core of my mandate, as palliative care is about the right to health and about dignity.”
Another highlight of the conference was the launch of the Anne Merriman Foundation, which is dedicated to embedding and disseminating the legacy and ethos of Hospice Africa Uganda, now the premier palliative care teaching and service facility in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethos, according to African Palliative Care Association (APCA) consultant Shelley Enarson, who spoke at the event, is “that golden thread that holds a multi-disciplinary field together.” This ethos is embodied in the “divine spark of hospitality,” which places the patient and family at the centre of the circle of care. It also encompasses clinical excellence and partnering and networking to support one another.
IAHPC participation included Professor Dr. Lukas Radbruch’s presentation on research, global developments in palliative care, and progress implementing the World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution in the European region. Dr. Tania Pastrana presented her findings from the second round of the Opioid Price Watch project, which provides an excellent evidence base for advocacy for improved access to controlled medicines such as morphine.
I gave a presentation on advocacy for controlled medicines, which can be found here, and hosted a ‘Meet the Expert’ session, which ensued in a lively discussion by front line providers of palliative care services who spoke about opioidphobia, the fear that underlies patients’, doctors’, and family members’ resistance to the use and consumption of morphine for the relief of pain. Ms. Rose Kiwanuku, Country Director of the Palliative Care Association of Uganda, and Dr. Stephen Watiti, a senior physician and advocate for HIV/AIDS patients, told success stories about persuading people to overcome opioidphobia, and then becoming advocates themselves.
My final presentation was in a facilitated discussion on advocacy for controlled medicines with Dr. Zipporah Ali, Executive Director of KEHPCA, and Dr. Emmanuel Luyirika, Executive Director of APCA. We focused on building partnerships across civil society, a process that involves exiting our palliative care silos and developing innovative partnerships in order to facilitate integration palliative care throughout public health systems.
While it is impossible to do justice in a short article to the richness and hopeful spirit of the week’s sessions, the overall sense of the meeting was that sustainable investment in palliative care through universal health coverage, one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 3, is the only choice for Africa, given its high burden of cancer, other non-communicable diseases, and HIV-AIDs. Former IAHPC Board member, Professor Scott Murray, and Joan Marston, retiring Executive Director of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network, both won Global Palliative Care Achievement Awards.
In his summary of the conference, Dr. Emmanuel Luyirika noted that palliative care is a force for peace, and that the process of drafting and ratifying the WHA resolution on palliative care brought together countries such as Iran and the US, Iran, China and Russia, whose relationships are often tense, if not hostile.
As the presence at the APCA Congress of delegates from more than forty countries attested, if anything will unite the world, it will be palliative care.
The full list of IAHPC Traveling Scholars who received grants to attend the 5th International African Palliative Care Conference:
Anita Esenam Agbeko, Shaimaa Siddig, Alfki Ali, Andrew Amata, Bosha Mildred Ndamukaneyi, Clint Cupido, Eunice Garanganga, Faraja Kiwanga, Valerie Maasdorp, Penelope Mathe, Elvis Joseph Miti, David Musyoki, Durojaiye A. Omowumi, Eunice Omoyeni, Michael Owusu-Ansah.
We shall hear about the experiences of our Traveling Scholars in a future edition of the IAHPC Newsletter.