Near the end of a news conference that ran about 90 minutes and included comments from prominent physicians from four different countries, James R. Downing, MD, concisely summed up the announcement.
The president and chief executive officer of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital said it was an "important day" for his hospital and for untold hundreds of children around the world. "We're going to export our knowledge across the globe."
Specifically, during the media event last month St. Jude unveiled an initiative to invest more than $100 million aimed at accelerating efforts to improve childhood cancer survival rates worldwide. With the launch of "St. Jude Global" the hospital hopes to achieve an ambitious goal of influencing the care of 30 percent of children with cancer worldwide within the next decade.
"St. Jude founder Danny Thomas dreamed of a world where 'no child should die in the dawn of life,'" Dr. Downing said. "While we have made great strides in achieving this dream in some parts of the world, the majority of children still die from cancers that can be effectively treated. With St. Jude Global, we are expanding the ways in which St. Jude reaches and impacts the quality of care provided to children around the world, closing the gap in survival that has persisted for too long."
According to St. Jude, global childhood cancer rates are on the rise as more children worldwide survive infancy. Today, more than 80 percent of children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries, where they lack access to adequate diagnosis and treatment. The majority of those children will die from their disease. This is a sharp contrast to developed nations where survival rates for pediatric cancers exceed 80 percent.
St. Jude began its first global outreach initiative in childhood cancer in 1993 when it established the International Outreach Program (IOP). This program used a twinning model that allowed St. Jude to develop direct, one-on-one relationships with hospitals around the world to improve the delivery of care to children with cancer. In the last 25 years, the IOP has grown to encompass 24 hospitals in 17 low- and middle-income countries. By sharing knowledge, technology, organizational skills and resources through the IOP, St. Jude steadily improved outcomes in children with cancer in the regions in which it operated.
In 2016, St. Jude formed the Department of Global Pediatric Medicine to accelerate its work to ensure that children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases have access to quality care and treatment -- no matter where they live. It set a goal of growing the number of children whose care it influenced from three to 30 percent within the next decade. Ultimately, its goal is for all children with cancer and blood disorders to have access to quality care. With these ambitious objectives in focus, the Department of Global Pediatric Medicine created St. Jude Global.
"More than two decades of experience combating childhood cancer around the world has taught St. Jude powerful lessons about how we can improve care for children and save more lives," said Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD, executive vice president and chair, St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine, and director, St. Jude Global. "Through St. Jude Global, we are taking on the ultimate challenge of tackling childhood cancer at a global level. We are working to create a global health system that is driven and well prepared to confront this challenge."
Those who want more detailed information should visit www.stjude.org/global.