Major Australian Government funding boost to eliminate cervical cancer in our region

Australia is stepping up its regional leadership in the elimination of cervical cancer, with the announcement today of a $12.5 million Australian Government grant to a consortium of leading Australian and international nongovernment health organisations.

The Elimination Partnership in the Indo-Pacific for Cervical Cancer (EPICC) is the largest ever initiative of its kind, leveraging Australian, international and in-country partner expertise to promote the World Health Organization’s strategy for the elimination of cervical cancer.

The EPICC consortium is comprised of The Daffodil Centre (a joint venture between the University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW), Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer, Family Planning Australia, National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance Australia, and Unitaid.

The Kirby Institute will lead in-country implementation and program management support across the new network. The new initiative builds upon the success of the Eliminating Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific (ECCWP) program*, which has supported the introduction of sustainable elimination policy and practice in Vanuatu and the Western Highlands region of Papua New Guinea.

“This funding is a welcome boost to supporting cervical cancer elimination in our region,” says Professor Andrew Vallely, Head of Global Reproductive Health at the Kirby Institute. “Through ECCWP, we have been able to offer vaccination, testing and treatment to thousands of women across Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, which has saved lives. This new funding enables us to continue supporting our in-country partners in scaling up these efforts, facilitating more equitable access to these lifesaving interventions.”

The grant announcement coincides with the launch today of Australia’s national strategy for the elimination of cervical cancer, which puts Australia at the vanguard of cervical cancer elimination, with the Australian Government-funded EPICC consortium set up to accelerate parallel progress in the region.

“A quarter of global cervical cancer cases occur in our region, the Indo-Pacific,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Penny Wong.

“Tragically, in the Pacific, women are dying at up to 13 times the rate of women in Australia.

“Using Australian expertise to respond to the region’s most pressing challenges is at the heart of our new international development policy”.

Prof Vallely said: “Cervical cancer leads to huge global inequities in health outcomes, with countries like Australia on the cusp of reducing it to the status of a rare disease at the same time as it causes a terrible burden for women, families and entire communities on our doorstep.

“EPICC will work with partner countries in the region to implement interventions based on the WHO Strategy for cervical cancer elimination, to put these countries on a sustainable footing, with the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in the short term and millions over the century.”

* The Eliminating Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific program has been made possible by investment from Minderoo Foundation, bolstered by donations of equipment and consumables from Cepheid and Copan.

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