Reflecting on 2020: The Year We Committed to Eliminating Cervical Cancer

For those of us working in global cervical cancer prevention/control, 2020 began as the year the world would set a course towards ending this disease, a remarkable milestone for the global cervical cancer community, and for the world. The emergence of COVID-19 changed the trajectory of our personal and professional lives this year, cutting a swath of both unpredictability and tragedy.  

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption, we were still fortunate to witness history in the making on November 17th, when the World Health Organization approved its Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer as a Public Health Problem. The pandemic prevented us from celebrating this historic occasion in person, but I was energized by the WHO’s excellent launch event and look forward to joining the collective effort to transform the strategy into lives saved.

Our efforts this year have focused on telling the stories of these life-saving programs, demanding action on their behalf, and creating new tools to catalyze increased political and financial support for cervical cancer interventions:

  • Our TogetHER Interviews series is gathering the perspectives of leaders in global cervical cancer control on how the field has been impacted by and has responded to COVID-19. Look for more interviews through January 2021.
  • We organized five webinars covering a number of critical subjects pertinent to cervical cancer prevention/control in low-resource settings, and we’ll be kicking off 2021 with new topics planned for January and February.
  • We coordinated multiple Calls to Action in 2020, advocating for increased integration of cervical cancer services into family planning programs, and highlighting the need to sustain women’s health programs during COVID-19. We also supported Family Planning 2020’s call towards a new commitment to rights-based, integrated sexual and reproductive health care during and after COVID-19.
  • We launched our second installment of Faces of Hope stories and published case studies highlighting fantastic cervical cancer prevention programs in Botswana and Nicaragua.
  • In February, we published a set of informational briefs to support organizations seeking to access Global Fund support for cervical cancer programs.
  • At the outset of the pandemic, we compiled a set of COVID-19 resources for cervical cancer prevention providers in low-resource settings.
  • We published our second annual estimates of funding for cervical cancer programs in low- and lower middle-income countries, which showed that resources had increased significantly, but not nearly to the levels necessary to support the WHO’s elimination agenda.

So much credit for our success must go to our partners for their tireless efforts, their perspectives, and their collaborative spirit. We hope to add new collaborators to their ranks in 2021, a year of rejuvenation and renewal as we work to make the WHO strategy a reality.

Thank you, and stay safe,

-Heather & the TogetHER Team