In spite of its growing recognition and expansion, the field of palliative care has struggled to reach its full potential in the global context. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading deterrents of palliative care growth include a lack of national health policies and systems that include palliative care, limited palliative care training , and barriers to accessing opioids and other essential medicines for pain relief. To advance any of these goals, trained palliative care professionals are necessary and the lack of palliative care education must be addressed.
To palliative care professionals, the benefits of the field are obvious; its diverse applications in a variety of circumstances can alleviate much of the unnecessary suffering around the world. But the number of palliative care experts is sparse, and too many health professionals fail to recognize its effectiveness. In fact, of the 40 million people who are in need of palliative care each year, only 14% receive it.
Throughout this pandemic, families, communities, and organizations have been in dire need of immediate support. Money for food, medicines, PPE, and other daily necessities is desperately needed for essential palliative care services to continue. While short-term aid is necessary for current daily operations, long-term investment into education — training of palliative care professionals and advocacy for palliative care policies – is vital to the future growth and success of the field.
The Centre for Palliative Care, Nigeria (CPCN), is an organization that is dedicated to capacity building for palliative care in Nigeria. In cooperation with tertiary institutions and other palliative care organizations, CPCN focuses primarily on impacting knowledge and skills regarding. They host a variety of training and mentoring opportunities for health professionals in palliative care, which directly contributes to the growing number of trained personnel in Nigeria. Despite limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic, CPCN has been able to maintain its commitment to palliative care training thanks to support from Global Partners in Care. Using Zoom, they have been able to conduct postgraduate curriculum development meetings and weekly educational seminars. CPCN’s dedication to advocacy has also helped streamline opioid availability in the country and generated greater awareness for pain and palliative care among hospitals. Earlier this year, the director of CPCN, Professor Olaitan Soyannwo, took part in a palliative care session at the West African College of Surgeons conference to help introduce palliative care to surgeons from all specialties across West Africa.
Organizations like CPCN are the driving forces of palliative care growth and education around the world. While hospices and other frontline providers fulfill the daily needs of patients (e.g. food, medicines, psychosocial support), the team at CPCN, among others, are devoted to promoting palliative care by expanding the body of palliative care professionals and integrating palliative care services and medicines into national health systems. A combination of short-term aid and long-term investment in education, training, and advocacy is necessary to sustain palliative care services in the present and ensure the field’s lasting success in the future.