Global Oncology: Investigating inequities in palliative care

Global Oncology Initiative (GO!) is a volunteer organization dedicated to helping improve cancer care worldwide. In this effort, it gathers advocates from many backgrounds — medical professionals, researchers, health policy specialists, and biomedical engineers — with the hope that interdisciplinary collaboration can lead to original, impactful developments in cancer education and treatment.

An important component of cancer care is pain-reduction, and in spite of their relatively low cost, palliative medications are not easily accessible in many parts of the world. The reasons for these inequities in access are complicated, and reflect variation in physician practice, government policies, and historical attitudes towards opiate medications.

To better understand this modern inequity, it is worthwhile to investigate historical variation in access to palliative medication. Towards this, Statistics for Social Good partnered with Global Oncology to gain access to opioid consumption data and to visualize it — the result was the Opioid Atlas. Our hope is that expressive visualizations of this data can both facilitate analysis by palliative care researchers and educate the broader public on the state of opiate access. To reach these audiences, we showcased our work at the 2016 Global Cancer Research Symposium.

Finally, we have made all data and analysis public, and welcome all ideas in improving global cancer care through data.