I am a Spanish scientist. I came to Manchester in 2007 to work as a postdoc in the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research. I have been working in oncology for the last 5 years so here I will focus on this, although what I’m about to speak about could also be extrapolated to many other causes.
It has always amazed me how committed people in this country are to fighting cancer. How so many adopt this fight as part of their daily lives; you see charity boxes in so many places (pubs, shops, coffee shops), people run, cycle, climb and swim all to raise money for cancer research. It seems so easy and so rewarding; to the point that it actually seems weird if you don’t get involved in something!
This leads me to question why this does not happen in my country? Is it because we are less supportive, are we so money orientated that we can’t give a penny for these causes or is it that that the Mediterranean diet protect us from cancer so much so that we don’t care or worry as much? Well, not the last one, of all EU countries Spain has the third highest rate of deaths due to cancer in people under 65. But what about the other two? Let’s think about them: are we Spanish people less supportive? I would say no. Spain is the world leader in organ donation and transplantation, which is pretty impressive since we are not a very big country. Not only that but we always show our support in the face of global catastrophe, organising call-in TV shows where people give money and which often raise many millions for the cause. So how about the second reason, are we a little bit tight with our money? As I said before, we are not. We as a country are happy to donate whenever we think people need it. We even broadcast TV shows where people can talk about their financial problems and others just call-in and donate money to them,offer them jobs or even give them a local rent free to start up a new business. So why is Cancer Research UK so much more successful than it’s Spanish counterpart (CRUK raised 661 million pounds in 2014 while it’s Spanish equivalent reached just 44 million)?
There could be several explanations for this. Firstly, when people donate organs their action will have a tangible effect on someone desperate for that organ, it will save a life right away. The same is true for donations made towards global catastrophes, when people donate money to these causes they believe that their money will go to help those whose lives have been damaged. But when they donate to cancer research they don’t see any instant benefit, people think it is a waste! Spain is not a leading country in cancer research so why are they going to donate to this cause? However, if people don’t get more involved we are never going to be a leading country. We have no charity shops and barely any money boxes dedicated to this cause. There are very few races organised with very little dissemination in the media. Among my academic friends working in Spain only one was even aware or the existence of World Cancer Day on the 4th of February.
I believe that if more people were to get involved this would encourage many others to do the same. Therefore, making advances in cancer research more likely and showing people a tangible outcome to their charitable donations. It just requires some compromise and support from different institutions and news industry. I hope that in the future this changes because not much has been changed in the last 9 years.
Post by: Cristina Ferreras