Interview Mrs. Korina Pateli – Bell

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Mrs. Korina Pateli – Bell

Founder & President  – FairLife L.C.C.

3 years after its founding, FairLife Lung Cancer Care closes 2023 with a distinction at the BRAVO Sustainability Awards. How do you feel about this acknowledgement?

To be awarded at the Bravo Sustainability Dialogue &Awards 2023 within ESG pillars has been a great honor and recognition of our efforts for people, impacted by lung cancer in Greece. We are proud of the awareness action “Youth Awareness Initiatives on Health and Environment – The first tobacco/ lung cancer free generation”, which received the 8th distinction for FairLife L.C.C. This award holds a special place in our heart. It is an inspiration to keep on working towards lung cancer prevention, a healthy lifestyle and environmental protection. In a world increasingly affected by climate change, we have to be responsible and sustainable. We need to join the young generation and develop awareness activities against smoking harmful effects and towards healthier daily habits. 

What is the story behind FairLife L.C.C.?

Simon Bell, my late husband, has been the inspiration behind FairLife Lung Cancer Care, the first  and only non-profit  organization in Greece, exclusively dedicated to lung cancer. The pain of his loss turned into a seed of hope and creation. Simon was a fair man who served the shipping industry as a shareholder and co-founder of Fairseas Average Adjusters, He was professionally active for nearly 4 decades before confronting lung cancer. After an uneven battle on all levels, he passed, at 57, leaving me and my 2 young children redefine our lives and cope with his loss. To honor his memory, the 1st Screening Program “Lung Health” was developed by a private hospital, offered free of charge to vulnerable social groups and was supported at its onset by Laskaridis Shipping,  Alassia NewShips Management, Tsakos Group. FairLife L.C.C. was born to bring Simon’s vision to life. Equal opportunities for people experiencing lung cancer in Greece.

Tell us about the lung cancer burden in Greece. How do you support your mission against lung cancer?

Lung cancer is not only a major health issue. It is also a major social and economical issue, with direct and severe effects both for the patient and for society as a whole. It comes 1st among all forms of cancer, accounting for 8,960 new cases per year in Greece and 7,662 deaths. Needless to say that apart from the high financial costs of treatment and the inevitable physical symptoms, lung cancer often threatens the social well-being of patients, survivors and caregivers as well as their emotional balance.

At FairLife, we always strive to be true to our name. To be there for people, impacted by lung cancer, to give them a fair chance against the disease.

Our common vision is to beat lung cancer by raising public awareness regarding early detection and by supporting all efforts to close the gaps in the journey of the lung cancer patient. To support our mission, we promote prevention, early diagnosis and screening to decrease mortality rates. We raise awareness of the value of comprehensive molecular screening and we educate patients, institutions and the wide public about the value of clinical trials and equal access to new innovative therapies. But we also work to eliminate the lung cancer stigma and provide psychosocial support to patients, caregivers and family members. Last but not least, we activate citizens and the young generation towards a stronger eco-consciousness, a better quality of life and a healthy environment with less pollution and less lung cancer.

Is there a link between polluted air and lung cancer cases?

Definitely! 29% of lung cancer deaths are related to air pollution. I cannot stress enough the strong link between lung cancer and air pollution, which calls for information and awareness-raising campaigns to protect the planet and its biodiversity. Lung cancer prevalence could be decreased within a healthy environment and FairLife works towards a sustainable society, based on environmental sensitivity and social inclusion, engaging youth in environmental, prevention and anti-smoking actions.

Lung cancer is directly related to smoking. Is there stigma around lung cancer patients?

Yes, the lung cancer stigma is there and it’s very real. Patients are subject to criticism and prejudice, because of their smoking history. Even non-smokers feel the stigma.

Lung cancer Stigma is based on the perception that lung cancer is necessarily the sole responsibility of patients, due to their smoking habit. The majority of lung cancer cases are indeed linked to smoking. 8 out of 10 people with lung cancer are smokers or ex-smokers. However, it is important to know that 15 – 20% of lung cancer patients have never smoked and 35 % had quit before diagnosis.

 Reducing the stigma is also a priority, because it directly impacts research funding and support to people living with lung cancer. To address the issue, FairLife L.C.C. launched in Greece, for the 1st time in Europe, the international campaign “Ask the right question” about lung cancer. We raised awareness about the negative effects of stigma on the lung cancer community and society as a whole. Working for this project has revealed multiple challenges, inequalities in care and the amount of collective work required to eliminate it.

ESG has become an imperative for all organizations.  How does FairLife L.C.C. integrate environmental, social and governance principles into its strategy?

In terms of social impact, we are committed to reducing healthcare disparities, when it comes to lung cancer care. Let me mention the free Psychosocial Support Program BREATH, implemented by FairLife L.C.C., which directly and indirectly so far impacted over 3,400 people and we are happy to share that more than 80% of BREATH participants recognized its positive impact.

Our approach towards environmental conservation includes actions and campaigns to educate the young generation against smoking and raise awareness of the importance of lung health and the universal human right to breathe clean air. 

Through our daily communication with patients, caregivers and family members, we demonstrate our commitment and foster trust among people living with lung cancer in Greece. FairLife L.C.C.’s team is motivated and highly engaged to build strong relationships and offer optimal support to people, impacted by the disease.

This is our way toward building a healthier and more sustainable future for our children.

Can we hope to change the lung cancer landscape any soon?

Hopefully, this landscape is about to change, thanks to scientific breakthroughs. There are surgical advances, improvements in radiation, new innovative drugs and targeted therapies. And yet, nothing is more valuable in cancer treatment than early diagnosis. Early detection translates into more cures, longer survival, lower costs of care. Lung cancer screening has to be included in the National Heath System (ΝΗS)

We need to raise awareness about an important but often overlooked approach in cancer treatment: the patient-centered approach. We need to reduce inequalities regarding access to innovative treatments and special care, enhance patients’ quality of life and help them live better and longer.

Lung cancer does not wait. This is a multidisciplinary effort and a consistent effort by all of us. Working together may lead to a great change!  To a world without lung cancer!

www.fairlifelcc.com