One of the most important developments in public health policies in the last few decades is the shift from the traditional understanding of patients as merely “recipients of healthcare services” to their conceptualisation as “active participants” in all aspects of their health.
In accordance with the right to health, which includes the right of all individuals and communities to “active and informed participation on issues relating to their health”, the participation of patients in “all health-related decision-making at the community, national and international levels” is increasingly recognised around the world. The engagement of patients, survivors and caregivers in decisions that concern them is qualified as an indicator of 'health democracy'.
All along the cancer prevention and control continuum, people-centred approaches are key to ensuring the legitimacy, relevance and quality of all cancer policies. From the adage “nothing about us without us”, patient engagement has led to the development of the “patient as partner” as well as the “patient expert” approaches. People living with cancer have a right to meaningfully take part in all policies and decisions that are in their interest.
In the field of non-communicable diseases (NCD), the NCD Alliance led a campaign for the 'Global Charter on Meaningful Involvement of People Living with NCDs' and the WHO has developed a Framework for meaningful engagement of people living with noncommunicable diseases, and mental health and neurological conditions launched in May 2023.
The pivotal role of cancer patient organisations as a vehicle for the sustainable representation of the patient voice and the collective experiential knowledge sharing in institutions and policies has been also recognised in the literature. Participatory approaches, with direct engagement of such organisations in policies and particularly in the development and implementation of national cancer control plans, are key levers for implementing the right to health in cancer control decision-making processes. In this sense, the participation of cancer patient organisations is a key requirement of “health democracy”
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About 40% of UICC Members are qualified as patient support groups. This represents a community of almost 500 organisations worldwide. In Asia-Pacific and Latin America, patient groups represent more than 50% of UICC’s members.
The membership also includes global patient coalitions, which include both non-cancer specific organisations such as the International Alliance of Patient Organisations (IAPO) and cancer specific organisations such as the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the World Bladder Cancer Coalition, the Lymphoma Coalition, the International Kidney Cancer Coalition, all of them working together as umbrella Coalitions.
With such a significant representation of patient organisations, UICC is committed to offer platforms and adapted support responding to the needs of its constituency, particularly from low- and middle-income countries. From an opportunity to engage on the occasion of World Cancer Day to a dedicated track at the World Cancer Congress on ‘People living with Cancer’, patients’ voices through UICC members are at the heart of all UICC’s actions directed towards ensuring better access to quality care.
As people-centred approaches are a critical prerequisite for quality cancer services, UICC has progressively developed a number of activities dedicated to patient groups, including for patient representatives as well as organisations with dedicated staff or led by volunteers, offering
 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt, A/HRC/7/11, 31 January 2008, para. 41.
 The right to the highest attainable standard of health (article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 14 (2000), E/C.12/2000/4, 11 August 2000, para. 11. See also, para. 17 (referring to “the improvement and furtherance of participation of the population in the provision of preventive and curative health services, such as the organization of the health sector, the insurance system and, in particular, participation in political decisions relating to the right to health taken at both the community and national levels”).
 Samson M, Garcia-Lorenzo MF, El Jabari C. Driving Equitable Access to Cancer Services Through the Engagement of People Living With Cancer: Regional Perspectives. JCO Glob Oncol. 2022 Oct;8:e2200200. doi: 10.1200/GO.22.00200.
 Souliotis K, Agapidaki E, Peppou LE, Tzavara C, Varvaras D, Buonomo OC, Debiais D, Hasurdjiev S, Sarkozy F. Assessing Patient Organization Participation in Health Policy: A Comparative Study in France and Italy. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2018 Jan 1;7(1):48-58. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2017.44.
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