My Experience Interacting with Kenyan Policy Makers and Cancer NGO’s

Author: Hodan Mohamud

My name is Hodan and this past summer in partnership with the University of Nairobi, I was fortunate enough to be a research student in the Dimaras Lab. As a research student I utilized published findings that investigated Kenyans’ experiences with retinoblastoma to develop knowledge translation plans for retinoblastoma genetics. My project’s foundation was focused on a seminal paper that was published in 2017 by Gedleh et al., in which crucial information regarding retinoblastoma genetics was highlighted. Crucial information that ultimately needed to be brought to the awareness of stakeholders such as the government, advocacy groups and health care professionals.

The Kenyan National Cancer Control Program (KNCCP) was one of the knowledge translation plan’s targeted stakeholders. The KNCCP develops a National Cancer Control Strategy every five years and was in the process of prioritizing recommendations for the current strategy. Leveraging an invitation to one of the KNCCP’s monthly meetings, I took the opportunity to present a policy brief centered on current knowledge regarding retinoblastoma genetics in Kenya. Developing and presenting the policy brief was a nerve-wracking experience. I needed to deliver a great presentation so members of the KNCCP would be aware of the crucial findings from the paper. Fortunately, the members of the National Cancer Control Program were extremely encouraging and receptive to my presentation. We had continued conversations about how the KNCCP may incorporate and implement the findings into their future strategies.

National Cancer Control Program
Me in front of the National Cancer Control Program’s Office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Aside from interacting with policy makers, I also met with Kenyan cancer NGO’s. I was fortunate enough to meet with members of the African Cancer Foundation, Kenya Cancer Association, and Hope for Cancer Kids. Kenyan cancer NGO’s work extremely hard to create awareness around the prevention, treatment and management of cancer, alongside supporting those affected by cancer. Many of these organizations hold events in the community to initiate dialogue around health and cancer. One of the more memorable events that I attended was a health and wellness event held on July 7th by the Africa Cancer Foundation called MoveEat. The event promoted messages on how to lead a healthier lifestyle to reduce the risks of cancer. It was super fun, had lots going on and included bouncy castles, Zumba, yoga, and bubble soccer for event participants. It was a great way to get the community actively involved in thinking about their health. Similar events are held regularly by Kenyan cancer NGO’s!

africa cancer foundation event
A picture from the MoveEat event held by ACF, I’m circled in the back.

This past summer I was able to witness the hard work required for Kenyan policy makers and cancer NGO’s to reduce the burden of cancer in Kenya. Presenting my policy brief to the KNCCP was a great learning experience to go alongside interacting with Kenyan cancer NGO’s. I hope conversations will continue to develop between researchers and policy makers so that crucial findings can make their way into policy that benefits all stakeholders.

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