Leading Experts Present at Healthy Eating, Active Living Environments Policy Forum

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Advocates for Mass Transit, Walking Paths, Other Programs to Increase Health and Reduce Cancer Risk

November 14, 2017

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) hosted its annual policy forum today at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville. The event featured national and local experts who discussed policy initiatives that can help reduce cancer risk and improve cancer outcomes for Tennesseans by encouraging healthy eating and active living. The forum explored barriers to nutrition and physical activity and evidenced-based public policy solutions.


This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that 37,080 people in Tennessee will be diagnosed with cancer and 14,830 will die from the disease.  Additionally, nearly 300,000 people in the state are estimated to have survived a cancer diagnosis.


Excess body weight, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition are major risk factors for cancer, second only to tobacco use. Approximately one fifth of the estimated 1.7 million cancer cases expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year can be attributed to poor diet, not enough physical activity, excess weight, and drinking too much alcohol.


“Many of us struggle with one or more of these issues and it can be an uphill challenge to change when everything in our environment is working against us,” said Lynn Williams, Tennessee government relations director for ACS CAN. “Today, we began a conversation about the problems many in our society face, what changes can be made, and how those changes can ultimately lead to better and longer lives.”


Most Americans are not meeting recommended nutrition and physical activity targets. Social, economic, environmental, and cultural factors strongly influence individual choices about diet and physical activity. Reversing obesity trends and reducing the associated cancer risk will require a broad range of strategies that include policy and environmental changes that make it easier for individuals to regularly make healthy diet and physical activity choices.


Across the country, ACS CAN and other health organizations are working at the local, state and federal levels to prevent cancer by advocating for legislation and regulations that make information more accessible for healthy choices, ensuring healthy schools for our youth and building healthy communities for all. A few examples of this are advocating for funding for mass transit options, walking paths, and infrastructure and programs such as Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets to create additional opportunities for physical activity.


“A town’s level of walkability is important for so many reasons,” said Williams. “That’s why we support programs like Complete Streets that’s being activated here in Nashville. It increases safe street crossings, bicycle lanes, accessible sidewalks, public transit stops, and greenways which will ultimately encourage more Nashvillians and tourists to walk or bike. The more we move, the better we feel and the more our risk of cancer is reduced.”


State and local policies that support active transportation and recreation are critical to help achieve physical activity goals and to reduce cancer risk. Such policies should be a central part of safe and healthy community planning, design and development.


Forum speakers included Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, managing director, nutrition and physical activity, American Cancer Society, Emily Harland, RDN, LD, Kroger dietitian, The Little Clinic, Leslie Meehan, MPA, AICP, director of primary prevention, Tennessee Department of Health, and Michael Holtz, cancer survivor and Tennessee’s volunteer State Lead Ambassador, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.


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

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