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Data can influence debate, conversation and decision-making during World Cancer Day

If we are to build better healthcare systems, futureproofing them for generations to come, we need to learn from each other. Not simply by looking back at the past but by examining and learning from our present. What we do well, why others outperform, where best practice can be identified and how we can close the gaps so that standards of care can continue to improve across Europe.

We must learn both from ourselves and others – and data can provide us with the best possible foundation on which to establish this better future.

The need to improve is great – we are living longer, populations are rising and the disease burden is increasing. With resources at a premium, action must be swift. This is particularly true of cancer and it is why, with World Cancer Day (WCD) on February 4, these learnings become even more urgent.

The data amassed by the Futureproofing Healthcare Index shows how the standard of cancer care between nations, even those who are near-neighbours, can fluctuate wildly. For instance, the data clearly shows that there is a wide national variation on outcomes and survivorship across the EU 28. Nations like Denmark are leading the way in terms of breast cancer treatment, Ireland is an inspiration in terms of how it offers palliative care, and Sweden and Belgium can teach valuable lessons in terms of greater sustainability in healthcare. However, the data shows there is a gap to close between prevention and diagnosis, and standard of treatment with many countries performing well in the former rather than the latter.

It’s right to celebrate success but there is still much than can be improved upon. No country is the world champion for everything, and everyone can be inspired by each other.

There are so many ‘wicked problems’ in healthcare – problems that are so complex and have such changing requirements that they can’t be solved alone by any actor. We need to collaborate with each other across our borders to offer more complete solutions for them. That’s why the Index – which analyses many different healthcare sectors - has been deliberately simplified so that it can be used by a wide range of decision-makers from different backgrounds and cultures. Certainly, experts can dive more deeply into the data but the bigger picture is something that all of us can digest and react to.

However, such sets of hugely detailed data can only become truly meaningful if we ask why. Why does it show what it does? If we don’t ask such questions, we can’t learn. Thus, the Index is not a table of first-to-last but a chance for nations to inspire each other. For stakeholders to see where lessons can be learned and who can best provide them. And for governments and health experts to honestly assess their own performances.

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to the future, concentrating instead on short-term management. Yet if we are to provide the best care for all of those affected by breast cancer – not just the treatment but prevention, use of innovation, post-operative care, support for the patient’s close network and other factors – we need to be prepared to take bold decisions now that will impact upon future generations.

That’s why on this World Cancer Day, data will hopefully influence the debates, conversations and decision-making taking place across Europe as we move towards a healthier future.

This year sees the launch of a three-year WCD campaign to encourage people to make a personal commitment to beating cancer, either themselves or in their communities. The #IAmAndIWill campaign aims to empower people to take their own measures, something that chimes with the purpose of the Futureproofing Healthcare Index. That we all need to take action to protect our futures.

One of the great things about such global events is that they encourage us to focus not just on the disease itself but on our own individual efforts in combating it. And by looking to ourselves, we are more inspired to learn from each other.

Analysing the data enables us to learn. So that instead of waiting for a future to happen, we can shape it from today, redefining our common tasks, challenges and ambitions.
As for my WCD commitment, I am Bogi and I will continue to seek solutions to futureproof cancer care #WorldCancerDay #IAmAndIWill.

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