Kenyan children complete treatment thanks to special parent education
Thanks to a special parent education program in our partner hospital MTRH in Kenya, the percentage of children with cancer who abandon treatment prematurely has dropped drastically from 54% to just 2%. This is evident from research by two Kenyan PhD students; pediatrician Gilbert Olbara and microbiologist Sandra Langat. Together with experts of our Western partners, they set up this parental education program at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kenya, one of our Outreach twinning partners.
As many as 54% of children with cancer at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kenya did not complete their treatment. The premature abandonment of the required therapy was the main reason for treatment failure. The parents did not understand the usefulness and necessity of completing the often expensive therapy. They were insufficiently informed by the medical staff that if they stopped treatment prematurely, the cancer was not sufficiently controlled and their children would still die.
We then started an information program for parents with two Kenyan colleagues, pediatrician Gilbert Olbara and microbiologist Sandra Langat. They were supervised by pediatric oncologist Gertjan Kaspers and research coordinator Saskia Mostert. Every week, all parents of children with cancer are invited to attend an information meeting in the hospital where they watch a video explaining what cancer is, what the treatment consists of, the possible side effects and why it is so important that the children complete their therapy. After the video is shown, the parents can ask questions to Gilbert and Sandra. The parents also receive an information booklet and DVD with the same information. In addition, Gilbert and Sandra organize a parent support meeting every two weeks where parents meet under the guidance of a psychologist and can exchange experiences with each other.
Last March, Gilbert and Sandra were in the Netherlands to develop their research results and write articles for international publications. The preliminary results are remarkably good: parents of more than 200 children have already taken part in the information program and of these children only 2% is drop-out! This offers hope. Not only for the children in this Kenyan hospital, but through presentations at international congresses and publications in medical scientific journals, the importance of good parent education will be brought to the attention of many more childhood oncology teams in developing countries. Ultimately, this will lead to more and more children worldwide being given the chance to cure cancer.