Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

A Blog From the ACS CAN President

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Taking on Cancer in Your State Capitol

February 10, 2017

By February, many have given up those New Year’s resolutions they made less than a month ago. But here at ACS CAN, our resolve is stronger than ever. Each year brings with it different opportunities, challenges and solutions. But our mission and commitment are unchanged – to work with lawmakers at all levels of governments to end cancer as we know it.

Throughout the country, in every state, territory and Washington D.C., ACS CAN staff and volunteers have hit the ground running in 2017, working with local lawmakers to pass and implement public health policies proven to have the highest impact in saving lives from cancer. From preventing the disease where we can, to detecting it early with lifesaving screenings, to finding better treatments and improving the quality of life of patients and their families, our staff and volunteers are out there working to reduce cancer’s toll in communities across the country. In 2017, we already have nearly 50 Days at the Capitol scheduled for the year, connecting our powerful advocates with their lawmakers to share their stories and help bring cancer down.

In Iowa, for example, nearly 100 volunteers came together with lawmakers at the state Capitol to encourage the passage of proven public health policies. Among the asks, were support for a bill to prohibit young people from using indoor tanning devices and protect funding for the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation program. The tobacco control program helps to prevent young people from becoming addicted to the tobacco industry’s deadly products, and helps those already addicted to quit. ACS CAN advocates are calling on lawmakers to stand up for Iowan’s health by protecting funding for this evidence-based program.

New Hampshire lawmakers are considering a move backward when it comes to efforts to reduce tobacco use among Granite Staters. Proposed legislation would turn back the clock to a time when employees in the state were forced to choose between their health and their paycheck, by undoing the state’s widely popular smoke-free law. ACS CAN is leading the charge to protect everyone’s right to breathe smoke-free air at work and we took our message to the State House with nearly 150 fellow advocates last month. At the event, volunteers shared recent poll results with lawmakers showing 88 percent of New Hampshire voters oppose the proposed bill. The poll found the majority of support for the current law is bi-partisan and spreads across every demographic sub-group and geographic region of New Hampshire.  In fact, 70 percent of voters say they are less likely to vote for their state legislator if they back this bill.

In both Wyoming and Virginia, ACS CAN staff and volunteers urged lawmakers to pass bills to improve palliative care services in these states. This specialized care is enjoying growing support nationwide and works to treat the whole patient not just the disease. Not only can it improve health outcomes for patients, but it also saves health care dollars. Legislation like the proposals in Wyoming and Virginia has been sweeping the country in the last few years, passing in nearly 15 states just since 2013.

We know what works when it comes to reducing cancer diagnoses and deaths and I commend our wonderful staff and volunteers for raising their voices to make that message heard in their communities and their capitals. I look forward to the year ahead knowing these passionate advocates will continue to fight until we end this disease. With these powerful voices at work, I know that day will come.