Improving quality of life for patients and their families is a top priority for ACS CAN’s advocacy agenda, and advancing policies that expand access to palliative care is an essential component of our work to support cancer patients around the country.
Taking a Stand at the Statehouse
More than 35,000 Hoosiers will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. That's what brought together 100 cancer survivors, caregivers and their families at the Indiana Statehouse in January.
Advocates called on the General Assembly to reduce the impact of cancer in Indiana by expanding access to palliative care and by increasing the price of cigarettes by $1. Through one-on-one meetings with lawmakers, volunteers shared their personal cancer stories and explained how elected officials play a critical role in preventing cancer. They made clear that while there was a lot to be done this legislative session, cancer wouldn't wait another year.
ACS CAN's Indiana Day at the Capitol event was one of nearly 50 similar events scheduled to take place in almost every state and the District of Columbia between January and May this year.
During 2016 state sessions ACS CAN will be working to convince lawmakers to pass comprehensive smoke-free laws, increase tobacco taxes, improving the quality of life for cancer patients, prohibit the use of tanning devices for minors and guarantee access to health care and lifesaving cancer screenings.
While we advocate throughout the year, often the highlight of each state session will be our Day at the Capitol events. Volunteers receive training from staff and veteran volunteers and then take their statehouse by storm, holding media rallies and conducting meetings with individual legislators.
Sometimes our advocates are even joined by special guests. At Indiana's event, basketball coaches Jason Gardner with Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Greg Lansing with Indiana State University joined volunteers in the morning for an annual Suits and Sneakers event, part of American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer partnership with the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The statehouse halls were packed with hundreds of people wearing their favorite tennis shoes and raising awareness for cancer. Even, Congressman Todd Rokita and Governor Mike Pence sported their sneakers to spread the word. This year, about 10 Day at the Capitol events will include Suits and Sneakers activities. The initiative leverages the personal experiences, community leadership, and professional excellence of coaches nationwide to increase cancer awareness, promote healthy living and to save more lives.
Volunteers impact the fight against cancer long after their day at the capital. In Indiana for example, the volunteers' voices have already been turned into action. On the day following the event, the $1 cigarette tax proposal passed out of committee as part of the House of Representatives' road funding plan. And later that day, advocates learned that the palliative care bill was assigned a committee hearing just 24 hours after their Day at the Capitol. We are proud to have such dedicated volunteers and staff that can truly be a force of change in statehouses across the country.
These types of victories can't be achieved without everyday people taking a stand for cancer patients. Throughout the year, I often hear from lawmakers and community partners about the passion and professionalism of our volunteers across the country. With Days at the Capitol and other similar events scheduled in every state, I can guarantee you that our lawmakers will hear us loud and clear: It's time to bring an end to cancer.