Crucial Legislation Would Improve Patients ' Quality of Life

Ad Campaign Will Emphasize Importance of Improving Patient Access to Growing Field of Palliative Care

July 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 20, 2012 Two bills introduced yesterday in the U.S. Congress aim to reduce suffering and improve the quality of life of patients undergoing care for serious illnesses such as cancer. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) strongly supports these legislative efforts to ensure that cancer patients suffer less and can focus on getting well, and will be launching a major advertising effort next week to educate lawmakers about the importance of palliative care.

The legislation supports the growing field of palliative care, which is specialized medical care that improves the quality of life of patients and their families by focusing on relief from pain, stress and other symptoms of treatment for a serious disease such as cancer. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and any stage of a serious illness and can be provided with curative treatment. It is delivered by trained specialists who work together with doctors and nurses in a team-based approach that focuses on the patients ' needs, explains treatment options and gives patients and their families a voice in determining their treatment and care.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) have introduced the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (S.3407 and H.R. 6155) which addresses the deficit in palliative care training offered in the nation 's medical schools by creating new incentives for the training and development of interdisciplinary health professionals in palliative care. The bill would create up to 24 Palliative Care Education Centers at medical schools across the country to expand interdisciplinary training, as well as establish fellowships that would provide faculty in medical schools and other health profession schools short-term intensive courses focused on palliative care. Faculty would be able to use the fellowships to upgrade their knowledge for the care of individuals with serious illnesses, and enhance their interdisciplinary teaching skills.

Palliative care is a big change in health care delivery, and it works in favor of the patient. That 's why palliative care is one the fastest growing trends in health care, and why we need more trained professionals in the field, said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. With improved access to palliative care, patients will benefit from improved quality of life from the time of diagnosis and during treatment and follow-up care.

Introduced by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), the Patient Centered Quality of Life Act (H.R. 6157) puts in place the building blocks of a national effort to improve the fragmented care that people with cancer and other serious diseases often receive by drawing more national attention to palliative care. First, the bill would require the director of the National Institutes of Health to expand and intensify research on palliative care. This would build upon the already strong science rationale for palliative care that demonstrates its ability to improve both quality and length of life at lower cost. Second, the bill expands on the Wyden-Engel legislation by supporting training for nurses, nurse practitioners and other allied health professionals in palliative care. Finally, the legislation convenes health professionals, patients, public and private payers and state and federal health officials to develop solutions, tools and model best practices for providing palliative care to individuals with chronic disease.

Right now, thousands of patients who are suffering from pain, shortness of breath, nausea and other symptoms of chronic disease have no idea that palliative care is available to them and can help relieve their symptoms and help them focus on getting well. Rep. Cleaver 's and Rep. Bachus ' bill is all about educating the public, the health care establishment and creating new research these are the building blocks of forward-thinking health care delivery reform, Hansen said. These bills will help patients live longer and will save the system money.

ACS CAN will launch a major new advertising campaign in Capitol Hill publications on Monday that aims to educate lawmakers and their staff about the importance of palliative care. The ad, which will run in print and online, features a woman in ballet shoes above the word cancer, which has been changed to read dancer. The ad emphasizes that palliative care restores patients ' quality of life by treating them as well as their disease.

Public opinion research reveals that seven in ten Americans do not know what palliative care is. However, once the public understands what it can provide for patients, 92 percent report they would be highly likely to consider palliative care for themselves or their families if they had a serious illness, and 92 percent also say patients should have access to this type of care at hospitals.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit


Lauren Walens or Steven Weiss

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (202) 661-5711

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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