Did you know that childhood cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 4 to 15 in Mexico? The World Child Cancer team kicked off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by visiting Hospital del Niño in Pachuca and Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña in Oaxaca. We’re partnering to improve childhood cancer treatment and care for children in Southeastern Mexico.
World Child Cancer USA Board Member Dr. Terrie Flatt, of Children’s Mercy Kansas City, World Child Cancer’s USA’ Executive Director, LeAnn Fickes, and World Child Cancer’s Program Manager, Joe Dixon visited Mexico City, Pachuca, and Oaxaca September 1st – 5th. Read more about our visit below:
Visit to Hospital del Niño, Pachuca, Hidalgo
Wed. Sept. 2
Wednesday morning, Dr. Flatt, Joe, and LeAnn took the early morning bus to Pachuca. When we arrived at the Hospital del Nino DIF, we were greeted by the pediatric oncology team, director of the hospital, and a representative from the Governor’s wife. The Hospital del Nino DIF has been treating children with cancer since 2005 and last year, treated 73 children.
Next, we took a tour of the hospital, pediatric oncology ward (including a new ward to open Sept. 16th), and a hostel for families and children next to the hospital.
Ward refurbishments and equipment have been provided by a grant from the federal government and the first line of chemotherapy is supported by Seguro Popular, health insurance for low-income Mexicans.
The hospital needs support in providing supportive medications, like antibiotics, and the second round of treatment. Children at the hospital live well-below the poverty line and families cannot afford even a small amount for drugs and other treatment costs. 40% of patients are indigenous and do not speak Spanish, which is a challenge for parent education and ensuring children take their medications once they leave the hospital. Currently, only 58% of children treated survive; education and support for costs of drugs and treatment are needed help more children beat cancer.
The team at Hospital del Nino DIF are dedicated to improving care and treatment. Dr. Marco Antonia Escamilla Acosta, hospital director, said: “We hope we can give better services to our children with this alliance.” The hospital is very open to collaborating and helping train other hospitals in the region.
Visit to Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña, Oaxaca
Thurs. Sept. 3
Thursday morning we traveled by bus to Puebla, where we met pediatric oncologist Dr. Arturo Moreno Ramirez.
After lunch, we Dr. Moreno drove us to Oaxaca and we arrived to a reception and dinner hosted by the Secretary of Health, Hector Gonzalez Hernandez, Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña Director, Dr. Isabel Dinorath Diaz Rojas, and the pediatric oncology team. Dr. Diaz gave a presentation on childhood cancer in Oaxaca and the challenges the team face at Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña.
The hospital sees approximately 100 new cases of childhood caner per year and many children are diagnosed late. A few challenges the ward faces are late diagnosis due to distance traveled and families’ reliance on traditional medicine; language barrier: over 50% of families do not speak Spanish and they do not have translators on staff; and lack of equipment. Like in Pachuca, the hospital needs help covering drug and treatment costs.
Fri. Sept 4
On Friday, we visited the Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña and conducted our needs assessment with the pediatric oncology team and Dr. Diaz.
Next, we toured the pediatric oncology ward (12 beds and 8 outpatient chemo chairs) and the new, empty ward, which is awaiting beds and equipment.
We also visited the hostel onsite, run by a local NGO, where we were able to meet a few patients. Most of the patient’s families are farmers and live 10 or more hours by bus from the hospital. The hostel is currently at maximum capacity and has a waiting list. It is funded by a local charity, AMANC Oaxaca. The hospital desperately needs an addition to the hostel; children and their families on the waiting list currently sleep outside.
We were fortunate to have a meeting with the Governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cué Monteagudo and the Secretary of Health, Hector Gonzalez Hernandez. During the visit, the pediatric oncology team shared their challenges and asked for support from the state government. Joe gave an overview of World Child Cancer to Governor Cué and local news. It was a very successful visit and a wonderful start to building a relationship with the government.
We were very impressed by the dedication of the pediatric oncology team, hospital administration, and government officials in Oaxaca and are looking forward to a fruitful partnership.
Our visits to Hospital del Niño DIF Hidalgo & Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña was extremely successful and we feel World Child Cancer can have a tremendous impact on both hospitals. Alongside the very enthusiastic local teams and governments, we can improve childhood cancer care and treatment in Southeastern Mexico.
Thank you to the teams at the Hospital del Niño in Pachuca and Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña in Oaxaca, for hosting our visit. Also, thank you to all of our supporters, who made this visit and our future support possible. Thank you!
Dr. Flatt, Joe, and LeAnn