Research to prevent cervical cancer has been awarded the 2020 APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Research Prize for its comprehensive analysis on how to tailor the approach to cervical cancer prevention in lower-middle income economies to make it more accessible and affordable.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, according to the World Health Organization. However, it is also preventable with effective vaccination and secondary prevention approaches, including screening. Early detection and management is key to successful cervical cancer treatment.
“APEC economies face challenges in availability, accessibility and affordability to cervical cancer screening, disproportionately affecting low-income women at high risk,” explained Dr Fanghui Zhao, Director of the Department of Cancer Epidemiology, National Cancer Center and Cancer Hospital with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the author of the winning study.
“Cervical cancer remains one of the gravest avoidable medical threats to women’s lives,” she added. “Developing and validating affordable and easy-to-access technologies and strategies are the key solution. By applying effective preventative methods, no woman should die from cervical cancer.”
Dr Zhao was announced the winner during the virtual High Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy meeting on Wednesday by Malaysia’s Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Rina Harun. APEC gender and economic development ministers, senior officials, as well as thought leaders and experts have recognized the differing socioeconomic impact of the pandemic at the meeting and committed to put women and girls at the center of economic recovery efforts.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of caregiving and the disproportionate role that women play in providing it. It is incumbent upon policymakers to identify data-backed policies that alleviate the double burden women currently face, because we all benefit when women participate in the economy,” said Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun.
Launched in Chile last year, the APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Research Prize awards USD 20,000 to the winner and USD 2,000 each to two runners-up. In partnership with Merck, the prize recognizes of the winners’ work which enables policymakers and business leaders to identify and implement measures to improve women’s health in APEC economies so women can join and rise in the workforce.
“In times of uncertainty, data is particularly crucial to ensure that policymakers and business leaders are able to make informed decisions. The collection, collation, and proliferation of sex-disaggregated data and research is vital to ensure that women are not left behind in the recovery from COVID-19,” said Liz Henderson, Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific, Merck Healthcare. “Better health and economic outcomes for women will improve not only gender parity, but also the overall economic environment.”
Dr Lih Rong Wang of Chinese Taipei and Dr Dorothy Chan of Hong Kong, China were the runners up for this year’s prize. Dr Wang’s research explored the positive impact of family-oriented work policies like flexible work schedules and paid parental leave. Dr. Chan’s research studied how the efficacy of health programs can be improved by involving stakeholders who can incorporate cultural and socio-environmental components in future interventions.
The Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative aims to improve women’s health and economic empowerment through public-private partnerships. Released in 2015, the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Policy Toolkit highlights five areas for improving women’s health across five areas: workplace health and safety; health awareness and access; sexual and reproductive health; gender-based violence; and work/life balance.
For more information on the work of the finalists and on applying for the 2021 prize, please visit the APEC Healthy Women Healthy Economies website.
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