Merck Foundation Announces Grant to American Cancer Society to Improve Access to Cancer Care in Resource-Limited Settings


May 22, 2019 7:00 am ET

$1.99 Million Grant Supports Patient Navigation Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa

KENILWORTH, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Merck Foundation (the Foundation) and the American Cancer Society
(ACS) announced today that the Foundation awarded a $1.99 million,
five-year grant to ACS to improve support and access to care for people
living with cancer in low-and-middle-income countries, particularly in
sub-Saharan Africa. This funding will help ACS further develop its
capacity development approach to expanding patient navigation to
countries with a growing burden of cancer.

More than 70% of the 9 million cancer-related deaths worldwide are in
resource-limited settings, where patients face many barriers in seeking
a timely diagnosis and receiving high-quality cancer care. Patient
navigators—whether nurses providing cancer education or lay health
workers linking patients to transportation services in the
community—play a vital role in supporting patients from the point of
diagnosis at a health facility through their treatment journey.

With support from the Foundation, ACS will fortify its patient
navigation program in Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), a national
referral hospital in Kenya, and adapt it for a high need facility in
Uganda – The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), which serves about 200
patients daily.

“We are excited about the American Cancer Society’s program to bring
patient navigation services to cancer patients in areas of the world
where care coordination is especially challenging” says Dr. Julie Louise
Gerberding, chief patient officer, Merck and vice chair, Merck
Foundation Board of Trustees. “Cancer patients deserve quality care
delivered with compassion, regardless of where they live.”

This grant is a first step toward broad expansion of patient navigation
programs to help more patients in resource-limited settings receive
timely, high-quality cancer care. As part of this effort, ACS will
develop a comprehensive guide and toolkit to develop and implement
patient navigation programs, designed specifically for health facilities
in low- and middle-income countries. Lessons learned from collaborating
with hospitals in Kenya and Uganda will be incorporated into this guide,
which ACS will pilot in health institutions in Asia and Latin America.

ACS hopes to demonstrate that resource-limited health care institutions
can use patient navigation as an effective tool to improve cancer care.
Looking ahead, ACS will help KNH and UCI integrate patient navigation
services into the way they deliver cancer care, with the goal of
transforming the patient experience so patients continue to receive the
timely, high-quality cancer care they need.

“Over the last 30 years, patient navigation has become a standard of
care across the U.S. to address the myriad hurdles that cancer patients
– especially the most vulnerable – confront across the complicated
continuum of cancer care,” says Sally Cowal, senior vice president of
Global Cancer Control, American Cancer Society. “We are eager to bring
our expertise in this area to countries where health system challenges
prevent patients from getting timely diagnoses and treatment.”

“Uganda has a population of 43 million, but there are only 20
oncologists in the entire country. That’s one of the reasons why patient
navigators are so important in helping patients manage the day-to-day
challenges that prevent them from receiving care and empowering them to
seek treatment and stay in care,” says Dr. Jackson Orem, Executive
Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute.

ACS will work with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory
University in Atlanta to evaluate the implementation of the patient
navigation programs in Kenya and Uganda as well as the pilot of the
program design guide and implementation toolkit. The evaluation team
will disseminate its findings to the global cancer community and other
interested stakeholders to advance the field’s knowledge of how to
effectively support cancer patients in resource-limited settings.

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 1.5 million
volunteers dedicated to saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the
fight for a world without cancer. From breakthrough research, to free
lodging near treatment, a 24/7/365 live helpline, free rides to
treatment, and convening powerful activists to create awareness and
impact, the Society is the only organization attacking cancer from every
angle. The American Cancer Society does not endorse any product or
service. For more information about ACS global work, go to

About the Merck Foundation

The Merck Foundation is a U.S.-based, private charitable foundation.
Established in 1957 by Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical
company, the Foundation is funded entirely by the company and is Merck’s
chief source of funding support to qualified non-profit charitable
organizations. Since its inception, the Merck Foundation has contributed
more than $921 million to support important initiatives that address
societal needs and are consistent with Merck’s overall mission of
inventing for life by bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many
of the world’s most challenging diseases. For more information, visit

Merck Media:
Pam Eisele
(267) 305-3558

Carol Richardson
(908) 740-1526

American Cancer Society Media:
Charaighn Sesock
(559) 972-4877

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