Message from the Chair and Executive Director

2021; Volume 22, No 9, September

Dear Readers:

During the month of August many readers took some vacation days, including ourselves. If you did too, we hope you enjoyed the rest. And we hope that all of our readers, their loved ones, and their friends are doing well and keeping healthy.

October is particularly important for the global palliative care community. On the second Saturday of the month, October 9, we celebrate World Hospice Palliative Care Day (WHPCD), a great campaign coordinated by the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) with the support of the global palliative care community. The focus of this year’s World Day is: “Leave No One Behind—Equity in Access to Palliative Care.” The goal of WHPCD is for policy makers to prioritize palliative care financing under universal health coverage. People around the world who have been affected by serious health-related suffering—either personally or by supporting a loved one—will be making their voices heard. Palliative care is not part of universal health coverage or national health systems in most countries. Palliative care has never been adequately funded! We need WHPCD to shine a light on the inequity in access to palliative care globally, especially for vulnerable populations.

Many organizations throughout the world are planning celebrations to increase awareness among lay people, governments, and patients that palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and families, and that appropriate policies and funding mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure access to palliative care to those in need. More about WHPCD’s activities taking place around the world, photos, and resources are available on the WHPCA website. We hope that you get involved by planning an activity, doing a post, or tweeting your support. It’s time to celebrate palliative care together!

We are pleased to announce that the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (JPSM) has published “How universal is Palliative Care in Colombia? A health policy and systems analysis” based on research by Liliana, Tania Pastrana, Felicia Knaul, Hector Arreola, and Natalia Rodriguez. As far as we (the authors) know, this is the first in-depth country health systems analysis relative to palliative care and Universal Health Coverage. JPSM is generously providing 50 days' free access to our article. Anyone clicking on this link before October 29, 2021, will be taken directly to ScienceDirect, where readers are welcome to download it at no charge.

Our analysis, which uses the components of the WHO public health model for PC (policy, education, medicines, and service provision), revealed that the most significant gap in palliative care service delivery, is the professional education of health workers. This aligns with the 2018 International Narcotics Control Board report that cites lack of professional education as the primary barrier in access to palliative care medicines. Although the government of Colombia has taken steps to improve provision of, and access to, essential controlled medicines for decades, and insurance companies have included palliative care in their coverage, graduating cadres of medical, nursing and pharmacy school professionals, still lack the necessary PC competencies to operationalize those official initiatives. Many graduates entered careers in politics, administration, or regulatory offices unaware of the system shortcomings. Since academic institutions are legally autonomous, the government of Colombia cannot mandate their curricula. Academia changes slowly and advocacy efforts of palliative care organizations to date have focused largely on government policy rather than education. Our analysis revealed that advocacy should be directed towards the academy and should focus on building constructive relations with deans and provosts of professional schools.

We hope that our article will motivate palliative care leaders and researchers to perform similar analysis in their countries. We are happy to assist in these efforts.

And, last but not least, you may have seen the special announcement we distributed a few weeks ago announcing some important changes for some IAHPC officers. After serving for more than 21 years as the “public face” of the organization—participating in public events, conferences, interviews, and other public activities—Liliana has decided to step back from this role, while continuing as executive director to guide the organization and support its staff, board, and membership. Liliana has taken this decision in order to focus on personal projects and to dedicate more time to her growing family. To accommodate this change, Dr. Katherine Pettus has been promoted to Senior Advocacy Director and will now become the official public face of IAHPC, a role that is a natural extension of the many panel discussions and other events in which she has participated or had a leading role. In addition, Ms. Genevieve Napier has been promoted to Senior Operations Officer to ensure that IAHPC’s many activities and programs continue to run smoothly.

We look forward to the ongoing collaboration among IAHPC’s excellent team, and our communication with you, our members and our readers around the world.

Until next month,

Lukas Radbruch, MD

Liliana De Lima, MHA
Executive Director

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