ICanServe Foundation, in partnership with Novartis, the City of Taguig, the Embassy of Switzerland, and Dashlabs.ai, launched the Circle of Life Project at the residence of Swiss Ambassador, His Excellency Alain Gaschen, in Makati City on January 11, 2023.
The Circle of Life Project is designed to build the data and digital infrastructure of Ating Dibdibin, the community-based early breast cancer detection program that eventually expanded to become a full-scale breast cancer control program in partner cities of the ICanServe Foundation. Launched in the country in 2008, and in Taguig City in 2012, Ating Dibdibin promotes early detection, early diagnosis, access to timely and quality care, supportive care, palliative care and patient navigation.
Circle of Life is made possible by the Novartis Alliance and Partnerships for Patient Innovation and Solutions (APPIS) Innovator Program. Under the leadership of its founding president, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, ICanServe was named one of two inaugural winners of the program in 2022, and partnered with digital healthcare ecosystem platform Dashlabs.ai to implement the project. Taguig City was chosen as a pilot site because it has become an Ating Dibdibin model for many best practices.
On the significance of the program to taking Ating Dibdibin to the next level, Alikpala said: “Data is the new gold. It has taken on a greater importance and value in the digital age. We’ve always known this but it is expensive, it’s elaborate, it’s tedious. Novartis gave us a chance to jumpstart our dream and gave us a grant. Once the Circle of Life kicks in Taguig, hopefully we can share the learnings with other cities.
I believe with good data and analytics, we can eventually overcome every barrier to quality and timely care for breast cancer. We can identify problems, including those challenges that have yet to surface. Data can guide us to design targeted interventions and solutions. It can tell us if any of our responses are effective and impactful. Nowadays, it’s a necessary investment in saving lives.”
Taguig City Health Office Executive Assistant for Health and ICanServe board member Dr. Cecile Montales likewise expressed her optimism for Circle of Life, saying, “With this partnership that connects us to Dashlabs and Novartis, we can particularize where the concerns lie and better target them. We are excited for what this program will turn into. We are certain this will allow us to more effectively address breast cancer in Taguig and, hopefully, in many parts of the archipelago and the globe.”
In her closing remarks, Philippine Cancer Society president Dr. Corazon Ngelangel placed the program in the context of healthcare legislation: “Now we have the NICCA (National Integrated Cancer Control Act) and the UHC (Universal Healthcare) Law, and our ardent prayer is to make the intent of these laws become a reality for cancer patients in the Philippines, not needing so much pressure from patient groups and cancer advocates for the government to implement these laws with urgency. Indeed, we need each other. We have to join forces to escalate this fight against breast cancer. We need to act now and keep the Circle of Life a-blazing…albeit each circle representing a generous contribution from each member of the Philippines.”
The launch event brought together various stakeholders in the breast cancer space, from the public to private healthcare sector to civil society groups. Ambassador Gaschen, former Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial, Dashlabs.ai CEO and co-founder Bryan Giger, Novartis Region Head for Patient Engagement & Communications Ruth Kuguru, Health Undersecretary Dr. Beverly Ho, and Taguig City Mayor Hon. Lani Cayetano delivered their messages of support for Circle of Life in the program hosted by ICanServe spokesperson Bibeth Orteza.
Members of Cancer Coalition Philippines and ICanServe, and other representatives from Taguig City, Healthway Cancer Care Center, Dashlabs.ai, Novartis, were also in attendance. Read the full remarks of Alikpala here.