In low-income, minority communities, tight-knit social connections can lead people to eat right and be physically active — but they can also sometimes be an obstacle to a healthy lifestyle, according to new research by investigators at Dana-Farber and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The findings present a mixed picture of the benefits and potential downsides of social ties as they relate to a healthy lifestyle.
On International Childhood Cancer Day, it’s important to remember that global support, research, and treatment are vital to ensuring that children in developing countries have the same chance at survival as their peers in the U.S. Physicians such as Dr. Leslie Lehmann from Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center travel all over the world to deliver expert, curative care to young patients with cancer. Here is her story.
Rwanda is a tiny country in central Africa with much beauty but few resources. The genocide in 1994 that killed nearly a million people also devastated the health care system. Many people do not receive basic health care services and cancer care was nonexistent. It was impossible to even tell how common cancer was – people would die from a mass, or from bleeding, or infection without ever having a diagnosis.
The country has over 11 million people with not a single physician trained in caring for people with cancer. It’s a very sad situation.
This is beginning to change a bit. Through the Partners in Health (PIH) organization, I became part of a U.S.– Rwandan team led by Sara Stulac, PIH’s director of pediatrics, assembled at the Rwinkwavu hospital with the goal of providing consistent quality care to children with cancer. Sara had lived in Rwanda working at this rural PIH- sponsored hospital for six years. I went to Rwanda with Kathleen Houlahan, a pediatric oncology nurse and nurse director of the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC), and Dr. Larry Shulman, medical oncologist and chief medical officer of Dana-Farber, who is the Senior Oncology Adviser for PIH and leads the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center efforts in Rwanda. Read more
Dana-Farber, with our partners Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston, offers patients highly advanced treatments in modern facilities. Our patients also benefit from an excellent staff, clinical research, and extensive resources, and many of them survive cancer to live long and healthy lives.
Is it fair, then, that cancer remains a death sentence elsewhere in the world? In Rwanda, for example, a country of 10 million people, cancer care has been completely unavailable to almost all patients. They die of cancers that could have been cured in Boston.
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center is bringing expertise and resources to countries such as Rwanda, Malawi, and Haiti, in collaboration with Partners in Health (PIH), and with support from the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and Michele and Howard Kessler. Teamwork is critical here; PIH is skilled at delivering health care in very resource-poor places, but lacks specific cancer expertise. We understand cancer, but not how to care for patients in such challenging areas, where much of the infrastructure required for cancer care (such as pathology labs) is missing. By joining forces, we can offer cancer patients of all ages a chance at life.
We’re beginning in the tiny nation of Rwanda, the most densely populated country in Africa and one of the poorest in the world. Our goal is not only to help bring cancer care to individual children and adults, but also to work with the Rwandan ministries in developing the policies and infrastructure needed for this work to take place.