New Zealand Cancer Control What is cancer control?

More New Zealanders die from cancer than any other health condition except for cardiovascular disease. From 1960 onwards, our cancer death rate has been increasing considerably faster than those of Australia, Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom. For our leading causes of cancer death in men (lung cancer) and women (breast cancer), our rates are also higher than those in Australia. One way of helping to address these unfortunate trends is by having and implementing a New Zealand Cancer Control Strategy (NZCCS).

Cancer control is an organised approach to the reduction of cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality. It provides a systematic approach to:

  • Prevention
  • Early diagnosis and screening where this has been shown to lead to a better outcome
  • Treatment and symptom control
  • Support and rehabilitation, and
  • Palliative care.

A cancer control strategy is a framework that leads to an organised approach to cancer control. It helps ensure careful planning, making the best use of available resources. A cancer control strategy also identifies responsibilities for various government and non-government agencies in implementing the strategy. As well as the high-level framework with enduring goals, objectives and principles, the strategy should also contain evidence-based, cost-effective priority actions which would be monitored and reviewed every three to five years.

Because cancer has so many causes, affects so many organs and involves so many different approaches, comprehensive cancer control cannot be achieved by any single organisation. For these reasons both government and non-government organisations need to be involved in the development of the NZCCS. Overseas, non-government organisations have often provided the major impetus for the development of national cancer control strategies, with the development phase then carried out in partnership, and the onus for implementation assumed by the government. This is proving to be the case also in New Zealand.

The impetus to develop a NZCCS was provided by the 1999 Cancer Control Workshop. The widely representative participants unanimously called for the development of a strategy by a network of relevant organisations with a commitment to cancer control. The New Zealand Cancer Control Trust was formed in response to this directive with initial funding from the Cancer Society of New Zealand and the Child Cancer Foundation. The objects of the Trust are outlined in the next section.

Since its formation in February 2001, the Trust has assumed a key role in developing a NZCCS and has established itself as an authority on cancer control. Under contract to the Ministry of Health, it has produced the following reports:

Other key achievements involving the Trust include:

  • Establishing contacts and working linkages with key individuals and organisations involved in the development of national cancer control strategies in Australia, Canada, England, Norway and Finland.
  • Obtaining the enthusiastic commitment of the Minister of Health to the development of a NZCCS. This was led by a Cancer Control Steering Group which reported directly to the Minister, and the development phase was undertaken by a formal partnership between the NZCCT (representing the non-government sector) and the Ministry of Health.
  • On 7th March 2005 the Minister of Health, the Honourable Annette King, released The New Zealand Cancer Control Strategy Action Plan 2005 - 2010 which had been developed by the Cancer Control Taskforce. This Action Plan outlines in more detail how the Strategy's objectives can be achieved and identifies actions for implementation across the cancer control continuum in the first five years. The Trustees were members of the Taskforce, and two were also members of its secretariat.
  • In May 2005, following advocacy by the Trust, the Minister of Health established a Cancer Control Council to provide an independent sustainable focus for cancer control, to monitor and review implementation of the Strategy, provide independent strategic advice to the Minister, foster collaboration and cooperation between bodies involved in cancer control and to establish and maintain linkages with overseas cancer control agencies. Professor John Gavin, Trustee and Executive Director of the Trust, is a member of the Cancer Control Council.