“The gap between what we know and what we do is lethal.”
— Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.
I attended a press conference today announcing the National Call to Action on Cancer Prevention and Survivorship. Lance Armstrong and 4 former US Surgeons General (Carmona, Satcher, Elders, and Novello) took turns outlining what they saw as the most critical aspects of advancing the war on cancer. I was offered 1:1 interviews with three of the four doctors, thanks to the press conference sponsors, The Canyon Ranch Institute, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. These interviews will follow in my next blog post.
Each speaker made a compelling and passionate plea for redoubling our efforts on the war on cancer (first declared in 1971 by Richard Nixon). Some of the key points included:
Lance Armstrong called for the FDA to regulate the tobacco industry, for the government to increase funding to the National Cancer Institute, and for access for all Americans to the same level of cancer care.
Dr. Richard Carmona called for culturally relevant preventive health education, for programs to decrease smoking rates and improve diet and exercise among Americans.
Dr. David Satcher called on Americans to act on what we already know. “Seventy percent of smokers want to quit” he said. The trick is to get them to follow through.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders emphasized the unacceptable quality gulf between healthcare for minorities and the poor versus the wealthy. She said, “poverty is the most potent carcinogen.”
Dr. Antonia Novello focused on the challenges that cancer patients face in navigating the healthcare system. She called for congress to pass a bill requiring Medicare to pay for coordination of care for cancer patients. She envisions a culturally sensitive, personalized service that will facilitate record keeping, improve therapy compliance, and help the patient to manage their care more effectively.
I was most intrigued with Dr. Novello’s arguments, since I’ve been interested in the concept of creating an “OnStar” navigation system for healthcare for several years. The cancer patient population is arguably the sub-group of highest need. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out in congress.