Mariah Forster Olson, an ACS CAN Ambassador Constituent Team Lead (ACT Lead), traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to share her story as a childhood cancer survivor and to advocate on behalf of other patients and survivors during the 2019 Childhood Cancer Action Days.
How Does Your State Measure Up on Policies to Fight Cancer?
Unfortunately, for most of you the answer to the question above is not well. According to a new edition of the ACS CAN report How Do You Measure Up? released today, many state legislatures are missing opportunities to enact laws and policies that could not only generate new revenue and long-term health savings, but also save lives. This year's report ranked where states stand on nine issues that play a critical role in reducing cancer incidence and death, including:
- Smoke-free laws
- Tobacco taxes
- Tobacco prevention and cessation funding
- Indoor tanning bed restrictions for minors
- Physical education time requirements
- Breast & cervical cancer early detection program funding
- Pain policies
- Access to palliative care
- Medicaid expansion
A color-coded system is used to identify how well a state is doing. Green represents the benchmark position, showing that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices. Yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark. Red shows where states are falling short. This year, no state received greens in seven or more of the 10 legislative priority areas and 38 states have reached benchmarks in only three or fewer. In most cases, small upfront investments by a state can save millions of dollars in health care costs in the long run. In fact, we know we could prevent roughly half of all cancer deaths in the United States if everyone in America were to stop using tobacco, get screened for cancer, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Some of the ways states can help are:
- Increasing tobacco taxes: No state comes close to matching the health and economic costs attributed to smoking, which are estimated at $10.47 per pack.
- Enacting smoke-free laws: No state passed comprehensive smoke-free legislation in the recent legislative session.
- Supporting the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program: Nearly half of all states have reduced state funding for their NBCCEDP, meaning fewer eligible women across the United States have access to lifesaving screenings.
- Restricting minors from using indoor tanning beds: Only five states Texas, Illinois, Nevada, California and Vermont have enacted comprehensive laws restricting tanning for minors under 18.
- Increasing access to palliative care services: If palliative care teams were fully integrated into the nation's hospitals, total savings could exceed $6 billion per year.
Through our network of cancer survivors and caregivers, volunteers and staff, ACS CAN is working with lawmakers in every state to help pass laws like these that can save lives from cancer. Our hope is next year we'll be able to share that more states are measuring up in the fight against cancer.