The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network has just released its 15th annual report on state legislative activity to reduce cancer incidence and mortality. This annual snapshot of key state policies indicates that as the nation is looking toward more state-driven solutions to address chronic disease prevention and access to health coverage, many states are actually falling behind in this area.
The report prompted Society CEO Gary Reedy to write an op-ed piece that appeared August 4 in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
“State lawmakers are in a unique position with proven opportunities at their fingertips to reduce the number of people in their states that hear the words, ‘you have cancer,’” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “When it comes to this disease, the decisions being made in our state capitals can be the difference between life and death for patients. By passing the proven policies laid out in this report, state lawmakers will not only be saving lives, they’ll be reducing long-term health care costs that can be reinvested back into state economies.”
"How Do You Measure Up?" grades states in nine specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer:
- Tobacco excise taxes
- Smoke-free laws
- Tobacco control funding
- Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation
- Indoor tanning restrictions
- Access to Medicaid
- Breast and cervical cancer screening programs
- Pain policy
- Access to palliative care
Overall, the report found that:
- 20 states reach benchmarks in only two or fewer of the nine legislative priority areas measured by ACS CAN
- 29 states and the District of Columbia measure up in just three to five of the nine areas
- Only two states – California and Massachusetts – meet benchmarks in six or more of the nine categories
- No state meets benchmarks in eight or nine policy areas.
A color-coded system is used to identify how well a state is doing:
- Green represents the benchmark position and indicates that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices
- Yellow indicates that a state making progress towards the benchmark position
- Red means that a state is falling behind
This year, increased access to health care through Medicaid is the issue where the most states met the benchmark, with 32 states rated green. Only four states -- Alaska, California, North Dakota, and Oklahoma -- are doing well on tobacco control funding, making it the issue where the fewest states met the benchmark. If you go to acscan.org/measure, you can use the drop-down to find your state's report card.
The first "How Do You Measure Up?" report was released in 2003 and, in just 15 years, a lot of progress has been made when it comes to cancer advocacy at the state level. This milestone is a great opportunity to reflect on how far we have come.
Since 2003, there has been a 25 percent drop in the cancer death rate. In 2003 only two states had smoke-free laws and 74 municipalities had passed smoke-free ordinances. Today, 25 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, and 876 municipalities across the country have laws in effect that require 100 percent smoke-free workplaces, including restaurants and bars. In another example of recent progress, to date, 32 states and the District of Columbia have increased access to care by expanding eligibility for Medicaid enrollment and reduced the number of uninsured individuals in their states.
Yet, this year alone, nearly 1.7 million Americans will hear the words "you have cancer." Therefore, while it's important to celebrate progress, work must continue to reduce suffering and death from cancer.
You can find the full report at acscan.org/measure. Read ACS CAN's press release on its report here.