Professor Adrian Newland CBE
Immediate Past President and Council member of the International Society of Hematology
Blood diseases exert a huge toll on low- and middle-income countries. By providing local medics with access to global experts, the benefits to patient healthcare can be improved.
Haematological diseases comprise a broad spectrum of disorders that affect the blood or the blood-forming tissues, such as the bone marrow, and may be either malignant or non-malignant in origin.
Among the blood cancers, leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma are among the most prevalent, whereas non-malignant blood disorders encompass various types of anaemia and a range of haemorrhagic conditions.
In the UK and other developed countries, patients with blood disorders have access to sophisticated diagnostic facilities and the latest treatments. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of lower- and middle-income countries, which require support from the global community to ensure that patients with haemetological conditions receive the proper care they need.
A lack of diagnostic tools in developing countries
Countries with developing economies often possess limited screening facilities and diagnostic tools, while access to the latest treatments is thwarted by a scarcity of resources and a limited healthcare infrastructure.
The cost of essential technology used for diagnosing and monitoring blood diseases means that low- and middle-income countries are frequently without access to these major diagnostic tools, resulting in patients not being treated as adequately as they might.
Non-malignant blood disorders exert a huge health toll, too. In developing countries, conditions such as sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia and haemophilia are expensive to treat. Even anaemia, the most common of all blood disorders, carries a huge health burden, especially when children and pregnant women are the ones in the community most likely to be impacted by it.
Global approach key to healthcare
The International Society of Hematology is a global organisation which facilitates collaborations, teaching and training through its bi-annual World Congress and journal, Hematology. Working in partnership with national societies and the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide world-wide education and advice on healthcare to lower- and middle-income countries.
Collaborations at a global level help to provide the poorest countries with solutions to some of their most pressing problems when it comes to treating blood disorders. Developing diagnostic tests in the community and advising on what healthcare facilities should look like at a district level forms a large part of the advice offered by WHO and its international partners.
In the absence of the latest treatments, support is also given to low- and middle-income countries in the form of expert-led training and digital resources that focus on providing best practice to clinicians with reference to what is available to them.
At the same time, WHO produces country-level report recommendations aimed at health ministers and funding bodies who can use them to assess the health gaps in their countries.
By working together with local clinicians and providing them with links to haematological experts at both a national and global level, it is hoped that the healthcare benefits of those living in developed countries can be shared with those suffering from blood disorders in more disadvantaged areas of the world.