Nigerian Health Advocate Named 2020 IVLP Alumni Award Recipient for Social Change

A Nigerian health Advocate, Runcie Chidebe, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Global Ties United State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change.

Runcie is a health advocate, civil society activist, and a leading voice in making cancer control a national health priority in Nigeria.

His many accomplishments include launching trainings for oncology care, volunteer mentorships, establishing breast cancer support groups, and advocating for improved cancer care and mandatory health insurance. 

He also led campaigns to establish the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment through an act of the Nigerian Parliament, and sits on several committees to ensure its implementation, as well as other programs for cancer prevention.

“Of all forms of inequalities, injustice in access to healthcare is one of the most inhuman injustices in Nigeria. Millions of people die from all sorts of inequalities, which are a result [of] healthcare injustice…Citizens are not aware that the right to health is a human right, including access to…healthcare of appropriate quality,” Runcie said.

Much of Runcie’s work was inspired by his participation in the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Youth and Civic Participation.” In 2016, Runcie visited six U.S. cities—Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Battleboro, VT; Albuquerque, NM; Philadelphia, PA; Austin, TX—where he made several connections that led him to advance his work in Nigeria.

In Texas, he connected with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to start the first ECHO palliative online training program for nurses in Nigeria. A visit to the headquarters of the Susan G. Komen organization in Dallas led to a partnership to translate materials on breast cancer awareness from English to various Nigerian languages.

“My IVLP experience was the most inspiring moment of my life. It gave me direction in civil society, human rights, advocacy, and activism, and helped me gain partnerships and collaboration…[that have] helped me sustain my work,” Runcie said.

Runcie is the founder and executive director of Project PINK BLUE, which advocates for improving healthcare quality and access to cancer care in Nigeria. Through Project PINK BLUE, he mobilizes over 3,000 people each year to walk in cities across Nigeria to create cancer awareness and advocate the Nigerian government to improve cancer care and make health insurance mandatory.

“I strongly believe that attending the Global Ties U.S. National Meeting will be an amazing opportunity for me to continue to grow my network for the good of my community. More importantly, it would be a great opportunity to share how I have benefited from the exchange program. It will also be a great inspiration to the 700-plus volunteers across Nigeria that our work is recognized on an international platform.”

The Global Ties U.S. IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change recognizes an alumnus or alumna of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program for high achievements driving social change through innovation in their home communities.

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