National cancer control programmes: Planning step 2

Where do we want to be?

Once the gaps are identified, It is essential to identify the target population, set priorities and objectives.

The target population

The target population of the cancer control plan depends on the goals of the plan. A comprehensive plan will cover the continuum of cancer control from prevention to palliation and target the whole population (of the country, region, state, province or area). A selective plan will target either a subgroup of the population or a limited component of cancer control.


Priorities are needed because available resources will never be able to meet all health needs. Factors to take into account in the priority setting process include:

  • burden of cancer and cancer risk factors;
  • existence of cost-effective interventions;
  • feasibility of interventions. Generally, cancer cannot be controlled by short-term public health strategies, therefore it is important to ensure that there are enough resources, capacity and public acceptability to maintain interventions, usually of indefinite duration;
  • equitable access to cancer control services of all the target population.

Objectives are directly related to the cancer control priority interventions for bridging the existing gaps. They should be SMART: specific, measurable, appropriate, relevant, and time bound. It is important to develop:

  • outcome objectives (the expected health effects on the target population), and
  • process objectives (what needs to be done in terms of organization of activities and resources to achieve the outcomes).

Related links