A new article by researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and partners describes how public health workers in Bangladesh leveraged electronic data systems to track the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cervical cancer screening programmes and to restart cancer screening services as rapidly as possible in less affected regions. The study was published in the journal Preventive Medicine, in a Special Issue titled “From Disruption to Recovery: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Cancer Screening”.
Bangladesh is an example of a low- and middle-income country (LMIC) that has a District Health Information Software (DHIS2)-based integrated health information system, which was gradually upgraded to collect individual data on participants in the national cervical cancer screening programme. These efforts to upgrade the system enabled the screening programme to transition from opportunistic to population-based.
The electronic system could report the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer screening on a monthly basis. The aggregate number of women screened in 2020 was 14.1% less than in 2019. During the peak of the outbreak, the monthly rate of screening was only 5.1% that of the previous year. The rate recovered rapidly as the programme intensified screening in the hard-to-reach regions less affected by the pandemic and expanded the outreach services.
Other LMICs may emulate the example of Bangladesh. Customizing the information system developed for pandemic surveillance to collect cancer screening data will help LMICs build back screening programmes better.
Basu P, Lucas E, Zhang L, Muwonge R, Murillo R, Nessa A.
Leveraging vertical COVID-19 investments to improve monitoring of cancer screening programme – a case study from Bangladesh
Prev Med, Published online 20 May 2021;