Tackling cancer in Kenya

Roche's partnership with the Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation (BMCF) is helping cancer patients in Kenya.

A diagnosis of breast cancer is a shock that changes your life in an instant. If this shock is compounded by social conventions that keep you from talking about the disease or even make you feel ashamed of it, you face additional obstacles on what is already a difficult path. This is one of the many other hurdles to receiving treatment. For many women with breast cancer in Kenya, this situation is a reality.

Beth Mugo and Christoph Franz signing the agreement to improve the situation for cancer patients in Kenya.
Beth Mugo and Christoph Franz signing the agreement to improve the situation for cancer patients in Kenya.

Hon. (Dr) Beth Mugo has experienced this first-hand. The first woman to be elected to the Kenyan parliament, in 1997, Mugo has since been one of the most influential personalities in Kenyan politics. She served as Minister for Public Health and Sanitation from 2008 to 2013. In 2011, she developed breast cancer. “My first instinct was to keep it secret,” she says, “because of the stigma associated with this disease in Kenya.” But then she changed her opinion, mustering all her courage to talk about her disease in public. Mugo’s story generated a lot of media attention and encouraged many women in Kenya to get check-ups.

The Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation

In 2016, Beth Mugo decided to increase her efforts to support cancer patients even further. The Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation (BMCF) was set up by her in 2016 and promotes access to information, detection and treatment of breast, cervical and prostate cancer. Roche is partnering with the BMCF by providing research data, basic training on cancer, support for patient organisations, and links to like-minded international organisations. 

Two partners, one objective

As part of Roche's commitment to improving access to healthcare, Chairman Christoph Franz participated in the signing a memorandum of understanding with the BMCF in October 2016. The aim of the agreement is to improve the situation of breast, cervical and prostate cancer patients in Kenya via a package of measures. Roche will be making its expertise in the field of patient organisations available to the BMCF, for example, by providing regular training for BMCF employees on the topic of cancer and helping the BMCF establish international links with similar foundations. Christoph Franz explains why the partnership with the BMCF is so important: “Even the most ground-breaking innovation is meaningless if, at the end of the day, it does not reach the patients. One of the main lessons I learnt from my autumn 2016 sub-Saharan Africa trip was that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We have to find individual solutions on the ground. Secondly, we, the private healthcare sector, will not be able to overcome this challenge on our own. We need partnerships.”

Beth Mugo and Christoph Franz shaking hands to demonstrate the future collaboration.
The Beth Mugo Cancer Foundation and Roche are joining forces.

A mutually beneficial collaboration

Governments, NGO’s and the private sector cannot do what they do alone. The partnership with the BMCF is an example of the type of public-private partnership that is needed to truly advance the fight against cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. Or as Christoph Franz also notes: «Together, we can remove barriers to access and empower people to build the lives they want for themselves and their families. Breast cancer patients in Kenya deserve the same treatment as anywhere else in the world.»

Tags: Society, Patients, Africa, Access to healthcare