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Nancy Goodman Brinker

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the appointment of American Nancy Goodman Brinker — businesswoman, diplomat, philanthropist and breast cancer activist — as its goodwill ambassador for cancer control. In this role, Ms Brinker will contribute her considerable experience and energy to raising awareness of cancer as a major public health problem and strengthening global action for cancer prevention and control.

“I look forward to Ambassador Brinker's help in raising global awareness of the need for comprehensive cancer control policies,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “The disease burden has shifted from wealthier to less affluent countries, and her advocacy will help in building awareness in low- and middle-income countries.”

Ms Brinker brings impeccable credentials to the job. As the founder of the breast cancer foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure — in honour of her sister, Susan, who died of the disease in 1980 — she has worked tirelessly to help improve the survival chances of other women with breast cancer. What began as a promise to her dying sister has now evolved into the world's largest grassroots network led by more than 100,000 breast cancer survivors and activists around the globe. Thanks to events such as its signature awareness- and fund-raiser, the Komen Race for Cure, a five kilometre run that takes place in more than 200 cities, the foundation has invested more than US$ 1.2 billion in fighting breast cancer.

Speaking of her work, the progress made, and the challenges still ahead, Ms Brinker said: “We have come a long way in our fight. Nearly 75 percent of women over the age of 40 now receive regular mammograms compared to less than 30 percent in 1982. Now it's time to take an even more aggressive stance. We must raise the expectations of science, of institutions and ourselves. We are so close to creating a world without breast cancer.”

Herself a breast cancer survivor, Ms Brinker said she felt honoured by the WHO appointment, which she saw as one of opportunity and challenge. “If we raise awareness about the global burden of cancer, its socioeconomic and psychological consequences on cancer patients and their families, and the necessary actions for its control, we will be able to advance the global agenda in the fight against cancer. I will work diligently to effectively disseminate these messages to the world.”

Earlier this year WHO and the IAEA launched a Joint Programme on Cancer Control, aimed at strengthening and accelerating efforts to fight cancer in the developing world. The agreement provides the framework for the two UN organizations to dovetail their work, building on their areas of expertise to create a more coordinated and robust approach to combating cancer in poor countries. It is hoped that Ms Brinker will visit IAEA headquarters in September to discuss capacity building and advocacy for cancer strategies appropriate to the needs of low-income countries.

Last update: 23 Aug 2017

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