Despite major policy wins in recent years, Arizona is still falling short when it comes to preventing and reducing suffering and death from cancer. According to the latest edition of How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality, Arizona measured up to policy recommendations in just four of the 10 issue areas ranked. The report was released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
We’ve made tremendous progress in the way we diagnose and treat cancer. But to leverage this progress, Arizona legislators should take advantage of these opportunities to pass evidence-based laws and support policies that are proven to save lives and money.
In Arizona alone in 2016, 32,510 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 11,800 will die from it. Cancer is the leading cause of death in the state. About half of those cancer diagnoses are preventable, so we can’t wait to take action when the stakes are that high and there are proven policy solutions to help. This report outlines ways lawmakers can make a difference by emphasizing cancer prevention, curbing tobacco use and prioritizing quality of life for patients and their families.
How Do You Measure Up? rates states in 10 specific areas of public policy that can help fight cancer. A color-coded system classifies how well a state is doing in each issue. Green shows that a state has adopted best practices as Arizona did in 2013 by passing Medicaid expansion and in 2014 by passing Oral Chemotherapy Parity legislation; yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark and red shows where states are falling short as Arizona did this year in tobacco prevention and cessation program funding by falling under 25 percent of the CDC recommended level. An additional $1 million in funding would push Arizona back over that threshold and put more resources behind excellent existing programs that are proven to work.
The Arizona Legislature had a chance to move the state from “red” to “green” last session in the area of preventing skin cancer, but failed to even hold a hearing on the Skin Cancer Prevention Act. The legislation would have prohibited anyone under 18 from using artificial tanning devices. Skin cancer rates have soared during past 30 years, making skin cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. An estimated one in five high school girls are using tanning salons despite the fact that indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 59 percent.
Another area to examine is palliative care services to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families. Palliative care is a coordinated, team-based approach among health care providers that does everything from providing emotional support to coordinating appointments and managing pain. It is proven to improve outcomes for cancer patients and reduce health care costs. ACS CAN model language on palliative care has passed in 13 states including Texas, Indiana and Georgia. This is another policy priority that ACS CAN Arizona will be working to educate lawmakers and the medical community as we look to 2017.
Brian Hummell is Arizona government relations director of the
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.