Global Facebook chat expands conversation on palliative care

Categories: In The Media.

The chat was part of a larger online event entitled “Global Cancer Chat,” and was hosted by PRI’s The World, Partners in Health and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

In an inspiring demonstration of the capabilities of social media, invited expert Eric Krakauer, MD, from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Palliative Care Unit engaged with individuals from all over the world as they asked questions on the topic of palliative care and cancer. 

Dr Krakauer has worked with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health and several of the country’s major cancer centers and hospitals to implement palliative care services. He has also provided training and technical assistance in palliative care in Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Malawi.

Chatters on other topics included: Amy Banham, oncology program coordinator, Partners in Health, Joanne Silberner, journalist, “Cancer’s New Battleground” at, a co-production of PRI’s The World and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting,  Dr Corey Casper, co-director, Fred Hutchinson of the Center Cancer Alliance, and Dr Jackson Orem, Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Joining the palliative care chat were a diverse group of participants, from students to anthropologists to thought leaders in the field of palliative care. 

Topics addressed included: 

  • Whether palliative care is oriented specifically around cancer, or whether it encompasses patients suffering from other ailments. 

  • The similarities and differences in the barriers to palliative care in the four countries in which Dr Krakauer has worked

  • The availability of essential pain medications

  • Governments’ fear of the diversion of morphine into heroin production

  • The importance of strong Ministry of Health leadership for palliative care in-country

  • Barriers to access of palliative care services

  • Community-based palliative care interventions 

  • The state of palliative care provision, as well as palliative care policy in-country

  • The role of pharmaceutical companies in producing and distributing pain medications

  • Regulation of opioid medication 

  • Funding for palliative care services

Dr Krakauer provided comprehensive and informative answers to participants’ questions. In response to a question on government opiophobia, he said: “Care does need to be taken to minimize the risk of diversion of opioids for illicit purposes, but MUCH more needs to be done to make sure everyone in pain has access to pain relief.”

Speaking about community-based palliative care interventions, Dr Krakauer said: “pain relief and palliative care MUST be provided in the home and at the community level. But community health workers need back-up from palliative care nurses and physicians at district and central levels who have advanced training in palliative care. NGOs certainly are helping greatly to make pain relief and palliative care available, but ultimately the government health system must integrate palliative care from top to bottom if it is to become accessible by all in need.”

The full transcript of the Global Cancer Chat, including the section on palliative care, can be accessed on the Facebook event page.

For further social network chats on topics related to palliative care, join the #hpmglobal Tweetchat every Monday at 12pm GMT.

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