There is a drastic shortage of accessible, up-to-date knowledge and quality training programmes for comprehensive cancer control. In some regions, local capacity to train and mentor health professionals is often insufficient, threatening the sustainability of cancer control programmes and the motivation of qualified staff to remain in their countries.
In response to this urgent need, PACT in cooperation with its international partners in cancer control, established an eLearning platform called the Virtual University for Cancer Control (VUCCnet), which provides cancer related courses adapted to suit cancer services available in the four participating countries.
In 2010, a pilot of VUCCnet was launched in Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia with funding from the Roche African Research Foundation, the US Government and the East Africa Development Bank. South Africa and Egypt acted as mentors to support the further development of cancer education and training, while providing the necessary peer review, with international partners, to build upon existing materials.
To date, the service has trained over 500 African health professionals and potentially reached over 10,000 cancer patients. (Based on the number of health professionals trained, the number and type of courses available, and estimates of population service coverage.)
Strengthening health professional's skills in this way is imperative in helping to address the growing cancer burden and will ultimately benefit cancer patients throughout the region.
At the request of IAEA Member States, PACT is working to expand the service in order to:
1. Build on existing partnerships and create new collaborations to support the training of more health care professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa.
2. Create new e-learning courses adapted to the cancer burden specific to the region.
3. Offer e-learning courses in multiple languages (English, French and Portuguese).
VUCCnet eLearning courses were initially designed to leverage existing African training networks and infrastructure, complementing programmes offered through local professional, academic and vocational education and training institutions.
The eLearning platform enables medical professionals at all levels, from community health workers to specialized staff in tertiary health care, to gain easy access to high-quality training courses to upgrade their skills, without taking time away from work.
Three courses are currently available with additional topics either planned or in development. These courses were identified as essential in helping to address the specific cancer burden in the region.
Currently available courses:
-Community Health Workers (cancer skills package)
-Screening Workers (cervical cancer: VIA)
-Palliative Care Practitioners (short courses)
Courses in development:
-Radiation Therapy Technicians