American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM Advocacy Accomplishments Report 2020

Letter from Lisa A. Lacasse, MBA, President, ACS CAN

Dear Friends,

It can’t be overstated: 2020 was an exceptional year. Like so many other aspects of our lives, the fight against cancer was transformed in ways nearly unimaginable prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The onset of enormous public health and financial crises meant we had to rethink and adjust how we influenced and advanced public policies to benefit the more than 16.9 million Americans with a history of cancer and the millions who were newly diagnosed during this time. Without hesitation, volunteers and staff rose to meet the moment.

As the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) has an unwavering commitment to safeguarding and bettering the health of all cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones – many of whom faced heightened risk due to the pandemic. ACS CAN staff and volunteers successfully pivoted our advocacy agenda to an almost entirely virtual format, finding ways to continue to connect with elected officials at all levels of government and urging them to enact policies to mitigate the significant effects of the pandemic by increasing access to quality, affordable health care. Cancer didn’t stop, so neither did we. Together, we demanded that cancer remain a national priority by elevating the voices of cancer patients and survivors in every state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.

Perhaps what I am most proud of this year are the many execution strategies to further our health equity goals. Increased attention to widespread, systemic racial injustice in our country – compounded by the disparate impact of the pandemic on communities of color – has demanded renewed urgency in our efforts to address disparities in cancer care and health outcomes. Through our public policy agenda, ACS CAN remains steadfastly committed to partnering with lawmakers, civic leaders and organizations to ensure everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat and survive cancer.

We could not have maintained our important progress forward without the critical support of our generous donors, our passionate volunteers and the many individuals and organizations that stood by us in this work and helped us overcome every barrier placed in our way. We are incredibly thankful for these partnerships.

I am immensely honored to lead an organization that has driven meaningful change and impact in a year of remarkable challenges and look forward to continuing our ever-important mission of relentlessly pursuing a world without cancer.

Lisa A. Lacasse, MBA

President, ACS CAN

Table of Contents

Who We Are and How We Deliver Impact

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public and elected officials, as well as candidates at the federal, state and local levels, by empowering advocates across the country to make their voices heard. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN staff work closely with American Cancer Society experts to identify and develop evidence-based public policies that promote access to prevention and early detection, treatment and follow-up care. ACS CAN is strictly nonpartisan and does not endorse, oppose or contribute to candidates or political parties. The only side ACS CAN takes is the side of cancer patients and survivors.

Volunteers: The Heart of ACS CAN

We engage hundreds of thousands of remarkable individuals in every congressional district across the country – cancer patients and survivors, caregivers and family members, health care providers and researchers – who share their time and skills to advance our mission to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.

ACS CAN volunteers:

Volunteer Voice:

"On July 28th, I had a call with Senate Majority Leader McConnell's (R-KY) staff to discuss nonprofit relief in the next stimulus package. Unlike most meetings, this one was unique because they contacted me to request my participation … I was reminded in that moment of something very valuable that we as advocates sometimes forget – that big things can come from small actions. In this case, I had written a letter to the editor asking for Senator McConnell's support on this issue and submitted it to my local paper, the Bowling Green Daily News. Because of the relationship our advocacy team has built with his office and the effort on my part, we were able to catch his office’s attention. During the call, my views and opinions were heard and my work and ACS CAN’s work felt valued. Throughout the call, Senator McConnell’s staff acknowledged the valuable work of the American Cancer Society in my community and communities across the country. I left the call with hope that with more small victories like these, we can accomplish a lot for cancer patients and their families.” – Kim Lindgren, Ambassador Constituent Team Lead, Kentucky

Judicial Advocacy Initiative

We work with attorneys who donate time and expertise to help advance our mission by representing ACS CAN in influential court cases, regulatory proceedings and legislative drafting to further mission goals. Learn more about our Judicial Advocacy Initiative at

Bringing Leaders Together in the Fight Against Cancer

We convene researchers, medical providers, patient advocates and public officials to foster discussion and examine public policies that are critical in the fight against cancer.

Expert Guidance

We leverage the expertise and insight of our Board of Directors, comprised of physicians, researchers, public health professionals, volunteers and civic leaders.

Coalitions and Partnerships

We lead and partner with a wide range of organizations to advance our mission priorities and improve our reach among diverse communities across America.

Back to Table of Contents

2020 Impact At-a-Glance

Back to Table of Contents

Public Health Crises in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life and posed unique health care challenges for cancer patients and survivors. Evidence continues to mount that the pandemic has had outsized effects on communities of color. 2020 also saw instances of racial injustice, including the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, which heightened awareness of systemic racism in America. These events brought new urgency to ACS CAN’s longstanding commitment to health equity in every aspect of our work and the need to mobilize in a new way to address emerging challenges brought about by the pandemic. ACS CAN contributes to and advances the American Cancer Society’s commitment to being an anti-racist organization by actively pursuing public policies at all levels of government that seek to improve health outcomes for ALL individuals.

Survivor Views

ACS CAN’s Survivor Views initiative established a cohort of more than 3,000 cancer survivors to participate in regular surveys and share their experiences related to our priority policy issues. We fielded multiple surveys throughout the year to capture snapshots of the patient experience throughout the pandemic, including the number of patients experiencing delays in care and the financial stress and worry caused by the pandemic. The real-time findings from those impacted by cancer have been widely cited by policymakers and media nationwide.

Links to full survey details at

Medicaid and COVID-19 Through the Health Equity Lens

The Medicaid Covers US project hosted a virtual event with Jamila Michener, PhD, Associate Professor at Cornell University and Co-Director of the Cornell Center for Health Equity, about the role of Medicaid in addressing health and racial disparities that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar also premiered a short film about COVID-19 in the Black Belt of Alabama. Medicaid Covers US is being funded by general funds from ACS CAN, as well as funds from the American Cancer Society (ACS). ACS is providing support for the public education components of the campaign, which is made possible through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Pandemic Relief for Patients

As the pandemic took hold, ACS CAN quickly positioned ourselves to make sure important policy issues that impact cancer patients were included in the public conversation around addressing the current public health and economic crises. Leading a coalition of more than 50 groups, we successfully worked to ensure that congressional relief packages included critical provisions such as funding to restart cancer research and clinical trials, increased funding for state Medicaid programs, expanded access to no-cost COVID-19 testing and 90-day prescription refills, and expanded telehealth provisions that provide patients greater access to in-home care and supportive services.

Link to PDF on detailing ACS CAN’s COVID-19 Advocacy Impact

Pandemic Relief for Nonprofits

The pandemic has also affected nonprofit revenue, forcing many organizations including ACS and ACS CAN to face significant financial challenges. As part of a strong coalition, ACS CAN helped to elevate the importance of relief for the nonprofit sector to elected officials. Both the March 2020 CARES Act and December year-end COVID-19 relief package included charitable sector priorities like the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) and a universal deduction for charitable donations of up to $600 for a couple and $300 for an individual to incentivize additional giving to nonprofits who have faced dwindling support amid surging demand. In addition, ACS CAN actively worked to pass the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020, which was signed into law in August 2020. This new law helps to improve emergency unemployment relief for nonprofits like the American Cancer Society. ACS CAN will continue to advocate for policy provisions, particularly for large nonprofits, that will allow additional funding to support mission execution.

Collaborations to Address Health Disparities

ACS CAN collaborated with members of the Congressional Tri-Caucuses throughout the year to bring together members of Congress, researchers and nonprofit and community leaders to discuss health disparities and drive action toward policy solutions. ACS CAN sponsored virtual events for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference that examined racial disparities in cancer screenings during the pandemic and how to reengage the Black community in cancer screening, as well as how racial disparities impact cancer survival. We also sponsored the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Health Summit, during which ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse delivered remarks in a discussion on social determinants of health in Latino children, youth and families.

Lisa also partnered with Lori Pierce, MD, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, to co-author an editorial piece in Urban One’s Engaging Black America publication about the critical need to address racial disparities in cancer by improving access to high-quality care. We were also proud to join the We Must Count coalition, a group of health equity and civil rights stakeholders fighting for accurate COVID-19 data collection by race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and other demographic information in an effort to urge policymakers to ensure accurate, timely public health data collection.

Addressing Systemic Racism as a Public Health Concern

ACS CAN supported multiple state-level initiatives to address systemic racism in public health. In one such initiative, Minnesota passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis and outlining steps to dismantle it.

Back to Table of Contents

Cancer Didn’t Stop and Neither Did We

ACS CAN prides itself on bringing together advocates, policymakers, regulators, researchers and health care professionals with a shared goal of improving public health. The pandemic has raised new challenges for how we advocate, how we celebrate and how we raise awareness. No matter the challenges we face, ACS CAN finds a way to advance our mission. This year, we greatly expanded our digital advocacy activities so we could continue to raise the voices of cancer patients and survivors while safeguarding the health of our volunteers.

Lights of Hope Across America

This year, ACS CAN took Lights of Hope to communities nationwide with the debut of Lights of Hope Across America. Volunteers helped transition the event, which previously existed exclusively in Washington, D.C., into a nationwide effort, bringing hope home with 52,000 tributes of hope and celebration for cancer survivors and those they have lost in hundreds of cities across all 50 states. The event represented a 30% increase in volunteer fundraising over last year, a huge accomplishment in such a challenging financial climate. Our volunteers met this challenge with fierce passion and determination, raising more funds than in any previous year to celebrate 10 years of Lights of Hope in 2020.

Link to video on Lights of Hope Across America

Leadership Summit & Lobby Day

ACS CAN’s 14th annual Leadership Summit & Lobby Day (LS&LD) brought nearly 700 participants from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia together virtually to meet with more than 450 congressional offices, including 141 member-level meetings and 201 senior-level meetings. They focused their tremendous efforts on advocating for health equity in cancer research, cures and prevention. In addition to funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), volunteers advocated for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cancer screening programs that serve low-income, underserved communities and ask for support for the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act to reduce barriers to clinical trials enrollment and increase participation from traditionally underrepresented patients. Participants were well-prepared to successfully navigate the new virtual format right from their homes after attending a series of pre-event trainings in the four weeks leading up to LS&LD.

One Voice Against Cancer Lobby Day

As founder and a leading member of One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC), ACS CAN together with a coalition of more than 50 cancer organizations hosted two lobby days this year advocating for greater federal investments in cancer research. Approximately 55 volunteers from nearly 20 states participated in more than 80 virtual meetings with members of Congress and their staff to advocate for increased funding for NIH, NCI and CDC cancer programs. Additionally, OVAC volunteers advocated for emergency funding for the NIH to restart research and clinical trials impacted by COVID-19.

State Cancer Action Day Virtual Events

While many of our state Cancer Action Day events were held in person prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACS CAN was able to pivot to online engagement in many states to ensure our volunteers’ voices were heard throughout the year. More than 100 Ohio volunteers participated in a successful Virtual Cancer Action Day in May, joining by videoconference to urge their state lawmakers to support tobacco prevention funding and protect youth from the dangers of indoor tanning. They closed the day with a “Power Hour” to connect with any remaining elected officials who had not been contacted earlier in the day. Pennsylvania volunteers spent their Cancer Week of Action urging their state lawmakers to preserve funding in its annual budget for tobacco cessation and prevention programs by sending 150 emails, posting more than 60 tweets and making nearly 400 phone calls.

2020 National Forum on the Future of Health Care

The 2020 National Forum on the Future of Health Care featured noted speakers including Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and examined new cancer therapies and policy interventions to overcome barriers that keep patients from accessing them.

57 Virtual State Policy Forums

ACS CAN hosted 57 virtual state policy forums covering topics ranging from improving access to innovative cancer therapies to addressing health disparities among Native American populations. These events drew prominent speakers including NCI Director Norman Sharpless, MD, and elected officials including Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) to the table to discuss important issues with our volunteers.

Back to Table of Contents

Research and Cures

Federal Funding for Cancer Research and Prevention

ACS CAN advocated throughout the year for sustained investment in cancer priorities across key federal agencies, a significant accomplishment in a tough budget environment. A year-end budget deal included:

Advancing Health Equity

Addressing Barriers to Cancer Clinical Trials

ACS CAN authored and advocated for the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act*, which successfully passed Congress in December 2020 and was signed into law in early January 2021. Clinical trials are critical to advancing cures for cancer, yet one in five trials fails due to lack of participation. Meanwhile, communities of color and other medically underserved groups have higher cancer rates and are under-represented in clinical trials. This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that progress towards cures continues and people have more equitable access to cutting-edge treatment opportunities. The legislation was a core piece of ACS CAN’s ongoing work to achieve health equity.

*The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act is named for a Black woman who died from cervical cancer and whose cells were taken without her knowledge during her treatment. The legislation aims to increase access and remove barriers to participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials among communities that are traditionally underrepresented. 

Improving Medicaid Coverage for Clinical Trials Participation

Participation in clinical trials advances our search for cures and gives patients access to cutting-edge therapies, but Medicaid recipients can face barriers to enrollment if their routine care costs are not covered during their participation. In 2020, ACS CAN successfully advocated for legislation federally as well as in Colorado, Illinois, and Minnesota to ensure routine care costs for Medicaid recipients enrolled in clinical trials are covered. The end-of-year spending bill in Congress included a provision to require that routine care costs are covered for Medicaid recipients in all states across the country. These wins also advance health equity by encouraging diverse participation in clinical trials.

Improving Access to Biomarker Testing

ACS CAN produced a new report, Improving Access to Biomarker Testing, which highlights advances in precision medicine to treat cancer through the use of biomarker testing. In addition to explaining how biomarker testing works, this report includes recommendations on how to ensure patients can access therapeutics with the highest likelihood of success for their unique cancer.

Back to Table of Contents

Prevention & Early Detection

More than half of all cancer deaths can be prevented by fully leveraging the knowledge, tools and medical breakthroughs we have today.

Providing everyone with the opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle and access to cancer screenings – like mammograms and colonoscopies – could save thousands of lives every year, and eliminate the inequities that exist in the prevention and early detection of cancer.

A key piece of ACS CAN's work to prevent cancer is reducing the toll of tobacco use, which represents the nation's number one cause of preventable death, a public health burden that is perpetuated by the industry's deceptive practices.

ACS CAN works at every level of government to support public policies that are proven to help equitably prevent and detect cancer and prevent people and youth from starting to use tobacco.

Federal Tobacco Regulation

After more than 10 years of delays by Big Tobacco and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), legal challenges filed by ACS CAN and our tobacco control partners resulted in two critical components of the Tobacco Control Act moving forward in 2020. Due to our court victories, FDA will review all new tobacco products – including most e-cigarettes, some cigars and smokeless tobacco, and hookah and pipe tobacco – against a standard of appropriate protection of public health, including the risks and benefits to the population as a whole and whether such products would affect tobacco initiation or cessation. The FDA also issued a final rule requiring new graphic warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements outlining their health risks, including the risk of cancer. The graphic warnings rule is being challenged by the tobacco industry in court, and we are now helping FDA defend it.

Reducing Tobacco Use in the States

ACS CAN fought for improved tobacco control measures across the country. Oregonians voted to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack and to tax e-cigarettes for the first time in the state. The increase, which went into effect in January 2021, is projected to keep nearly 19,000 kids and young adults from smoking. Illinois doubled its tobacco control funding to a total of $10 million dollars appropriated, while Maine increased tobacco control funding by more than $2 million. ACS CAN and public health allies formed a coalition and successfully encouraged voters to oppose a ballot measure that would have diverted funds away from tobacco prevention and cessation programs that have helped 2.4 million Oklahomans. California passed restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, a critical step forward in our health equity work as the tobacco industry continues to use flavored products to hook and addict youth, low-income communities, LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color.

Breast Cancer Awareness and Education

ACS CAN supported the successful reauthorization of the Early Act, which enables the CDC to increase awareness and education about breast cancer among young women at high risk. The Act also supports efforts to get health care providers information they need to detect early warning signs of breast cancer in younger women. The reauthorization was included as part of an end-of-year spending package passed by Congress in December 2020.

Increased Funding for Early Detection

Cancer screening saves lives by detecting disease early when it is easier to treat. ACS CAN successfully advocated to increase or protect funding for early detection programs in several states in 2020. Minnesota expanded the reach of its breast and cervical cancer early detection programs by creating a pathway to treatment for American Indian women who are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.

Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening

ACS CAN successfully advocated for passage of the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, which will ensure seniors and others on Medicare have access to colorectal cancer screening without any surprise out-of-pocket costs. A provision phasing in the bill over time was included in the year-end federal funding deal and signed into law by the president. The major bipartisan victory will help improve affordability of lifesaving cancer detection services. ACS CAN volunteers and staff worked tirelessly for the past decade to make this important policy change a reality.

Updated Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

While federal and state laws require health insurance plans to cover colorectal cancer screening starting at age 50, ACS updated its colorectal cancer screening guidelines in 2018 to recommend that screening begin at age 45. This year, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released updated draft recommendations for colorectal cancer screenings for average-risk populations to align with ACS’ guidelines. If finalized, individuals with ACA-compliant plans will gain access to colorectal cancer screenings without cost sharing starting at age 45. In Indiana, ACS CAN supported successful legislation to require health insurance plans to cover colorectal screening tests beginning at age 45.

Back to Table of Contents

Access to Care

Access to quality, affordable health care is an essential piece of ACS CAN's mission to reduce death and suffering from cancer. Research clearly demonstrates that insurance status directly impacts health outcomes, and that those who are insured are diagnosed earlier when cancer is easier and less expensive to treat.

All individuals should have equitable access to quality cancer care. Existing racial and ethnic disparities in cancer care are largely attributed to obstacles accessing health care services, including lack of adequate health insurance coverage.

ACS CAN works in every state and in Congress to expand access to affordable care for all cancer patients, survivors and those most at risk of the disease.

Medicaid Covers US

Launched in 2018, Medicaid Covers US is a national public education project aimed at inviting curiosity, empathy and understanding about the lived experience of individuals, families, organizations and communities impacted by the Medicaid program and the essential role that Medicaid plays in lives of millions of Americans. In 2020, we updated our stories and two documentary films – On the Edge and Critical Condition – to explore the impact of COVID-19 and health disparities on essential workers, rural health care providers and the Black community in Alabama.

Medicaid Expansion

Public health advocates celebrated two major victories in the fight against cancer in the summer of 2020, when voters in two states supported increased access to health insurance coverage through their respective state Medicaid programs. Oklahomans voted to expand access to health insurance to an estimated 200,000 low-income parents and adults, and Missourians approved Amendment 2, which will provide an estimated 230,000 state residents access to coverage. ACS CAN supported these efforts through grassroots volunteer engagement and media strategies. These wins will improve access to cancer prevention services and help keep rural hospitals open, which is especially critical as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities in equitable access to health care in rural communities.

Additionally, the end-of-year Fiscal Year 2021 legislative package included coverage for non-emergency medical transportation for Medicaid recipients, a win in our efforts to improve access to health care for underserved populations.

Access to Effective Treatment

Many insurance plans have step therapy or “fail first” policies in place that require patients to try less expensive, potentially less effective drugs before the plan will cover the prescriptions their physicians recommend. Not being able to access the treatments they need in a timely manner can lead to worsened symptoms and presents a particular challenge for patients suffering from life-threatening or chronic diseases like cancer. ACS CAN and our volunteers achieved victories in North Carolina and Louisiana this year with signed legislation that will place limits on step therapy policies. These two states join more than 20 others in enacting similar legislation to improve access to care.

Access to Affordable Treatment

Some cancer patients face extremely high out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and are forced to go into debt or forgo needed medications because they cannot afford them. ACS CAN, in partnership with many other patient advocacy organizations, advocated to improve affordability at the federal level – launching an ad campaign calling on Congress to remove hurdles to quality cancer care – and in targeted states. New Jersey passed a law that will make it easier for patients who depend on prescription drugs to afford them by requiring insurers to offer at least some plan options that cap patients’ out-of-pocket drug costs at $150 to $250 per prescription, per month starting in 2021. In Maine, ACS CAN supported a package of health care reform bills that will protect patients from surprise medical bills for emergency services and require health insurers to offer a standardized set of health insurance plans, making plans easier to understand and compare.

Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills

Congress’ FY 2021 funding deal included the No Surprises Act to prohibit surprise medical billing in most cases, an ACS CAN priority and a significant step in the right direction to reduce surprise out-of-pocket costs for patients. This new law will provide long-needed peace of mind for those trying to afford their care.

Fighting Back Against Access to Care Threats in the Courts

ACS CAN filed multiple amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in 2020 to protect critical access to care. We led 20 patient groups representing millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions in a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court detailing the devastating impact patients would face should the court rule to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ensuring the patient voice is heard by the high court. We successfully urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to strike down the use of work requirements for Medicaid, which would have caused thousands to be deprived of their health care in Kentucky.

Costs of Cancer

The new Costs of Cancer 2020 report indicates that cancer patient out-of-pocket costs are unaffordable, on the rise and don’t impact all patients equally. This report uses real cost estimates for several types of cancer treatment in various insurance scenarios to illustrate how cost affects access to care and what policymakers can do to ensure that all people with cancer can afford the right care at the right time.

Medicare Appeals Process

While health insurance is a critical component of access to care, barriers remain – even for the insured. ACS CAN’s 2020 report, The Medicare Appeals Process, highlights the challenges that can stand in the way of quality care for the more than 61 million Americans with Medicare coverage. We found that the appeals process is overly complex, can result in long delays in care, and is not well understood by beneficiaries who may not know their appeal rights. But policymakers can help solve these problems following our recommendations for simplifying and streamlining the process.

Back to Table of Contents

Cancer Votes

Cancer Votes is ACS CAN’s national candidate and voter education campaign through which volunteers from across the country ask political candidates of all parties to make clear their positions on our priority cancer issues.

At the beginning of 2020, ACS CAN volunteers focused their work in the key primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, getting candidates, including then-presidential candidate Kamala Harris on the record on our issues including protecting people with pre-existing conditions, increasing funding for cancer research and regulating the marketing of e-cigarettes.

ACS CAN staff invited all the presidential candidates, from both sides, to meet with us to discuss cancer issues. Eight campaigns took us up on the offer, including the campaign of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.

After the pandemic began, we found innovative ways to remain effective.

Cancer Votes is nonpartisan and does not advocate for any particular candidate or party. Many ACS CAN volunteers, however, are active in a personal capacity in campaigns on both sides. For example, in 2020, Arizona ACT Lead Jeff Jeans was featured on the second night of the Democratic National Convention, talking about how the Affordable Care Act saved his life.

Back to Table of Contents

Looking Forward

In the face of ongoing, compounding challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, ACS CAN advocates never wavered in their pursuit of public policies that will reduce the burden of cancer for patients, survivors and all those at risk of the disease.

Looking forward, in addition to our continued work to remove barriers to adequate, affordable health care and secure robust funding for cancer research and prevention programs, ACS CAN will continue to address the emerging challenges created – and exacerbated by – the pandemic while advancing the fight against cancer in communities nationwide.

Health Equity and Accountability

As ACS CAN advocates to eliminate health disparities in cancer, we will continue to support the Health Equity and Accountability Act. This bill puts forth a set of strategic policy solutions designed to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities; improve data collection and reporting to understand health disparities; and monitor progress towards equity goals, diversify the health care workforce and increase diverse participation in clinical trials among underrepresented communities.

Continued Promotion of Palliative Care

ACS CAN has been a leader in the fight to close the gap between the need for palliative care and the number of health professionals equipped to provide it. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for palliative care services even beyond the existing shortfall.   Palliative care is symptom management offered alongside curative care that can be offered at any age or stage of treatment. The Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), which has passed twice in the House of Representatives, could provide immediate assistance in addressing needs related to COVID-19 as well as long-standing needs in the cancer community.

Tobacco Taxes

People who smoke or who smoked previously are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Regular and significant increases in tobacco taxes are one of the most effective ways to prevent people from using tobacco and encourage current users to quit. Increasing tobacco taxes also generates much-needed revenue for states. Now more than ever, states must do everything in their power to keep our communities healthy and safe. ACS CAN will continue to advocate for increasing taxes on all tobacco products, investing tobacco tax revenue in evidence-based comprehensive tobacco control programs and building strong public health infrastructure and ensuring access to health care.

Back to Table of Contents

Special Thanks

Following are some of the individuals and organizations that helped make 2020 such a successful year for ACS CAN despite the challenges collectively faced by our country. We also extend a sincere thank-you to those not specifically mentioned here, as this list is by no means exhaustive, and to our colleagues to whom we had to bid farewell in 2020. Please know your contributions did not go unnoticed.

Coaches vs. Cancer

Speakers at the 2020 Lights of HOPE Across America Ceremony

Bristol Myers Squibb, Lights of HOPE presenting sponsor

ACS CAN’s efforts are supported by the work of attorneys who donate their time, services and specialized expertise as part of the Judicial Advocacy Initiative (JAI) to help advance our mission. Thank you to these individuals.

In light of the significant economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on nonprofit organizations, multiple vendors generously provided in-kind donations of their services to ACS CAN, for which we are very grateful.

2020 Advocacy Award Recipients

ACS CAN recognizes exceptional volunteers, staff members and elected officials throughout our annual Leadership Summit & Lobby Day.

The National Distinguished Advocacy Award (NDAA), which is ACS CAN’s most prestigious advocacy honor, is awarded to public officials for leadership in the mission to end cancer as a public health problem. The 2020 NDAA recipients were:

Volunteer Awards

Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy*:
Donna Lundy, Florida

State Lead Ambassador of the Year:

Ambassador Constituent Team Leads of the Year:

Emerging Leader:
Victoria Crocker, Georgia

State Advocacy Team of the Year:

Judicial Advocacy Initiative:
Jeff Dubner, Democracy Forward Foundation

*The Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy, ACS CAN’s highest honor for volunteers, is presented annually to exemplary volunteers in recognition of outstanding leadership and continuous service in the area of advocacy and public policy.

Staff Awards

Field Government Relations Professional of the Year:
Kristin Page-Nei, Montana Government Relations Director

Field Grassroots Professional of the Year:
Paula Warlick, Oklahoma Grassroots Manager

American Cancer Society Partner of the Year:
Tawana Thomas-Johnson, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion

Regional Professional of the Year:
Lori Davies, Director, Grassroots Organizing

Alan Mills Award**:
Mary Rouvelas, Senior Counsel

**The Alan Mills Award, ACS CAN’s highest honor for advocacy staff, is presented to the individual who best embodies the passion and dedication of the late Alan Mills, a former American Cancer Society staff lobbyist and one of the founders of the National Government Relations department.

ACS Donors

Judicial Advocacy Initiative Contributing Law Firms

Corporate Champions

Corporate Allies

Corporate Heroes

Corporate Friends

Corporate Sponsors

Chair’s Circle

President’s Circle

Champion’s Circle

Hero’s Circle

Leader’s Circle

*Contributor to the campaign opposing Oklahoma State Question 814, in defense of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, cancer research and tobacco cessation programs

Back to Table of Contents

©2021, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Inc. No. 766020