The theme of this year’s 2020 Joint AAPM | COMP Virtual Meeting and Presidential Symposium is “Improving Health Quality. Increasing Global Impact”. Why is it important to focus on improving health quality and what would be its global impact? There are many reasons for this:
COVID-19 has taught us one lesson: global health is local health and local health is global health. Innovation in one part of the world, be it in the fight against COVID-19 or against cancer or any other disease, can benefit everyone across the globe. Collaborations between professionals from high income and low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) can lead to innovations and development that can benefit all. Multiple recent reports indicate that the only way to move the global community forward in healthcare, especially in LMIC’s, is a multipronged approach with multiple capable partners including local and international organizations, industry, non-government and altruistic organizations, and independent professionals. This realization presents significant opportunities for improving health quality and achieving health equity for all people worldwide.
Global health needs are changing dramatically. The World Health Organization (WHO) data show that 71% of global deaths in 2016 are attributed to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The United Nations unanimously approved a resolution in support of the “prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases, among which cancer is a leading cause of death”. While NCDs such as diabetes and chronic lung diseases are important public health issues that currently do not have significant medical physics involvement, imaging and treatment for cardiac diseases and cancer fall squarely in the realm of the medical physics profession. Unfortunately, the burden of cardiac disease and cancer amongst NCDs is rising disproportionately among low- and middle- income countries with little or no access to quality imaging and radiotherapy. This has created enormous disparities in the need for medical physicists globally. The realization that such disparities exist in imaging technologies and cancer treatments to underserved populations provides an impetus for our specialty to develop strategies to close the gap in standard imaging and cancer therapy procedures.The lack of access to cancer care in many parts of the world in the face of increasing needs of LMICs should propel AAPM – the largest and leading medical physics organization in the world, in the richest country in the world – to action. We have the opportunity to partner with the global medical physics community and with all relevant stakeholders to improve health quality and achieve health equity through the safe utilization of treatment and imaging technologies, and supporting scientific and technological developments to make these technologies more robust and cost-effective.
M. Saiful Huq, PhD, FAAPM
2020 AAPM President
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