World Cancer Day: going beyond awareness to tackle inequity in cancer care

Mar 7, 2018
World Cancer Day: going beyond awareness to tackle inequity in cancer care

Cancer is a global problem, yet around 70% of deaths from the disease occur in developing countries because they are ill equipped to cope with the burden of the disease.1

That was the message behind this year’s World Cancer Day, on February 4, which drew attention to inequity in access to cancer services, treatments and care.

“We are not just talking about inequities between low-, medium- and high-income countries, but also within countries that are highly developed,” explained Thuy Khuc-Bilon, World Cancer Day campaign manager at the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). “We are seeing it among many vulnerable groups, whether that is lower socioeconomic groups, indigenous groups, rural communities or refugees.”

“Campaigns like World Cancer Day offer a platform for the world to come together and raise its collective voice. It is not just about awareness but keeping critical topics like this at the top of the global health agenda,” said Thuy.

Going beyond raising awareness

This year’s World Cancer Day was the last in the three-year “We can. I can.” campaign, designed to take the annual observance day beyond raising awareness to show the public that everyone can play a role in the fight against cancer.

“We found that when the message changed every year, there was less opportunity to build upon or reinforce those messages. A three-year campaign was a way of getting supporters to engage with the messages then adopt and adapt them for the longer term,” Thuy explained.

The feedback from UICC’s 1,000-plus member organizations, who might not have the resources to reproduce materials every year, has been overwhelmingly positive.

She added: “We are not moving away from raising awareness, but now the focus is the next steps, and how awareness can translate into impact.”

A resounding success

World Cancer Day is a huge event, involving thousands of people and hundreds of national cancer organizations. Planning for it is a full-time job. For it to succeed, it is essential to engage the international cancer control community to amplify the message and make sure that it makes sense for individual countries.

“As an international organization, we would be naive to think we can create a campaign that resonates with every single person in every single country all around the world. We really need our members to translate the campaign not just in terms of language, but also understanding,” explained Thuy.

This year’s event certainly made a noise, attracting wide-spread media coverage and extensive social media engagement. There’s no time to relax though: Thuy and the team at UICC had already started planning the 2019–2021 World Cancer Day campaign before this year’s had even started.

Watch this space for more information.


  1. WHO (2010). Cancer in developing countries: facing the challenge. Available from: (accessed March 2018).
World Cancer Day: going beyond awareness to tackle inequity in cancer care

Thuy Khuc-Bilon (pronounced Twee Cook-Beelon) is the World Cancer Day Campaign Manager at UICC, working alongside cancer organizations and hospitals, corporate partners, cities, schools and the general public, to help empower their involvement in this growing, global movement. Her work and curiosity had led her to marketing and communication roles in higher education, the arts and most recently, in public health – in Australia, Canada, the UK and Switzerland.

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