The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network recently honored Olivet resident C.J. Heisler with its Advocacy Volunteer of the Year award at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing.
The award recognizes the exemplary efforts of an individual who helps ACS CAN advocate for responsible public health policies and laws that will help fight cancer. To be considered, a volunteer must 1) demonstrate outstanding and successful leadership in cancer-related public policy at the national, state or local levels; 2) make substantial contributions to the fight against cancer at the state level or in their community; and 3) actively participate in local and state-level events, media campaigns and advocacy initiatives throughout the year.
“C.J. serves a key role within ACS CAN with great passion and commitment,” said Matt Phelan, Michigan grassroots manager for ACS CAN. “He is always there when you need him and consistently goes above and beyond our expectations of volunteers. Our team would certainly not be the same without his hard work and persistence.”
The award ceremony was part of ACS CAN’s annual Day at the Capitol, which brought together cancer advocates like Heisler to urge lawmakers to make cancer a top legislative priority.
“Cancer death rates continue to decrease nationwide, but we still haven’t fully implemented proven ways to prevent the disease in the first place,” Heisler said. “More than 21,000 Michiganders will still lose their lives to cancer in 2017 alone. We’re here today to ask lawmakers to help cancer patients better access lifesaving treatment options and screenings and to confront one of the leading causes of premature death in our state – tobacco use.”
Specifically, ACS CAN volunteers asked lawmakers to:
- Improve access to oral chemotherapy options. Oral chemotherapy is often more convenient and less harsh than its intravenous counterpart, and some cancers are only treatable through oral medication. But many Michiganders face high out-of-pocket costs that deter them from taking these drugs, even if it’s the only effective treatment. A clear majority of states have laws that help patients access their doctor-recommended drugs, and ACS CAN says it’s time for Michigan to join them.
- Reduce youth tobacco initiation and addiction rates. Michigan’s cigarette tax rate hasn’t been increased since 2004, failing to keep up with inflation and continuing to allow new tobacco products to evade regulations. ACS CAN estimates that a $1.50 cigarette tax increase would help 79,700 Michiganders quit smoking, keep 54,000 kids from ever becoming addicted to tobacco and prevent 37,200 premature, tobacco-related deaths. It would also save the state nearly $3 billion in long-term health-care costs and generate more than $287 million in new revenue.
- Fully fund state cancer prevention programs. Michigan brings in $1.2 billion in tobacco revenue every year but spends only a fraction of that on programs that help smokers break their addiction. These programs receive just 1.5 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended funding level. Additionally, Michigan’s other cancer prevention programs have experienced drastic funding cuts over the past 10 years, limiting cancer care and services for Michiganders who most need them.
ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate organization of the American Cancer Society, dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.