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Keywords:

  • healthcare systems;
  • breast care program;
  • human resource allocation;
  • patient navigation;
  • capacity building

Abstract

Breast cancer is serious public health problem in countries of all resource levels. Although major advances in the detection and treatment of the disease have occurred in higher income settings, similar progress has been slow or scarce in most low- and middle-income countries (LMCs). The poorer outcomes in LMCs may relate to the limited capability of their healthcare systems (HCS) to provide successful early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer. Impediments to better outcomes include insufficient numbers of appropriately trained healthcare workers, limited access to screening/treatment facilities, inadequate supplies of necessary drugs, and timeliness of treatment after diagnosis. Clearly, these HCS deficiencies are broader than the scope of the Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI) and are not unique to the issue of breast cancer. To address issues in HCS that hinder the delivery of breast health services, the BHGI Healthcare Systems and Public Policy Panel explored the HCS structures and function needed to operate a breast care program (BCP). Like with all BHGI guidelines, those proposed by this panel were expressed in terms of 4 strata of resource levels: basic, limited, enhanced, and maximal. The current report describes the issues and questions related to HCS that are important to consider when designing, implementing, and measuring the performance of a BCP. Health ministers, other policymakers, healthcare personnel, administrators, and anyone else involved in developing a BCP can use and adapt this framework to improve outcomes and ensure the more effective use of resources. Cancer 2008;113(8 suppl):2282–96. © 2008 American Cancer Society.