ACS: Global Patient Navigation

ACS: Global Patient Navigation

According to the World Health Organization and American Cancer Society, 1 in 6 people die from cancer globally, with cancer-related mortality outnumbering deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.


In resource-limited settings, patients often face barriers to obtaining a timely cancer diagnosis and receiving high-quality cancer care. Fragmented health systems in sub-Saharan Africa — overwhelmed by a double burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — diminish the likelihood that patients will receive the critical care they need.

Patient navigation is an effective way to help cancer patients overcome the many challenges that may affect their care by providing them with individualized assistance. A successful patient navigation program helps ensure timely diagnosis and treatment, increases rates of treatment completion, and improves patients’ overall quality of life. While navigation for cancer patients has become the standard of care in the United States, it also holds great potential to support cancer patients in other regions, including resource-limited settings.


To help enhance NCD care in resource-limited settings, our company’s Foundation is helping the American Cancer Society (ACS) bring its expertise and experience in patient navigation to new regions with a growing burden of cancer. Through a ~$2 million grant over five years (2019–2023), the partnership will improve patient support and access to cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa and develop guidance to help low- and middle-income countries adopt similar models of care.

The cornerstone of the ACS patient navigation program is the connection between the patient and the patient navigator. These navigators—whether nurses providing cancer education or lay health workers linking patients to transportation services in the community—play a vital role by supporting patients from the point of diagnosis at a health facility through their treatment journey.


In 2015, ACS partnered with Kenya’s only comprehensive cancer care facility — Kenyatta National Hospital — to identify the challenges patients face accessing cancer care services at the hospital and introduce patient navigation as a potential solution.

With support from the Foundation, ACS plans to:

  • Continue the successful patient navigation model at Kenyatta National Hospital
  • Bring the tools and resources that have been developed in Kenya to a high-need facility in Uganda — The Uganda Cancer Institute — which serves about 200 patients daily
  • Create a comprehensive guide to patient navigation program development and implementation for health facilities in low- and middle-income countries
  • Pilot the guide in health institutions in Asia and Latin America.

Through this partnership, ACS aims to demonstrate that patient navigation can be effective and viable for resource-limited health institutions and can be fully integrated into the way each institution delivers cancer care for sustainability.

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 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.