The fight against cancer has found new assistance from a recent state plan aiming to control the disease and bridge the socioeconomic gap in prevention, treatment and care.
The Connecticut Cancer Partnership, released its recommendations Wednesday for a statewide comprehensive cancer plan on Wednesday, emphasizing the need to reduce disparities in cancer prevention and care between the insured and the uninsured, said Dr. Andrew L. Salner, Partnership Board Chair and the director of Cancer Programs at Hartford Hospital. The proposal suggests policy changes and programs in the areas of cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, survivorship and end-of-life care.
Political support in the state for the partnership and its recommendations is bipartisan. On Wednesday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell officially endorsed the partnership, and State Senate Democrats have listed the cancer initiative as the second-most important issue in their budget proposal this year, placing it above budgetary support for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Salner said the proposal’s recommendations include ensuring access to tobacco cessation programs for the uninsured and those in Medicaid, increasing funding for a popular and underfunded breast and cervical cancer early detection program, as well as creating a statewide clinical trials network to make clinical trials available to anyone in the state.
“What we’ve particularly learned is that the underserved frequently don’t have access to some of these strategies and tend to get more advanced stages of cancer and have less access to hospice care and pain control,” Salner said. “The strategies offer a lot of things that will help everybody in Connecticut, but there is a particular emphasis on making sure we’re helping those disparate populations who don’t have equal access.”
Salner said the idea of a statewide coalition and repository of cancer care is a historic advancement in the realm of disease control.
“We’ve never before had individuals from both the public and private sector — such as universities, not-for-profit organizations, cancer interests and experts, for-profit businesses — working to do something this comprehensive,” Salner said.
The partnership was formed in 2002 at the urge of the Centers for Disease Control and the sponsorship of five state health institutions, including the Yale Cancer Center.
“The purpose is really to bring together many of the people in the state who are working to reduce the burden of cancer and to facilitate communications between those people and entities within Connecticut,” said Brenda Cartmel, a research scientist at the Yale School of Epidemiology and Public Health and co-chair of the partnership’s Data Surveillance and Evaluation Committee.
The Centers for Disease Control, which awarded a grant for the program in 2002, is funding comparable partnerships in all 50 states as part of its push for comprehensive cancer care, which includes coordinating cancer control with research, treatment and recuperation efforts.
Mande said that former President Richard Nixon’s 1971 declaration of a “war on cancer” is finally coming to fruition due to tremendous scientific developments over the past three decades.
“Officials in the country who work in health have seized upon that advancement in science and have set a new goal for cancer control,” Mande said.
The issue still facing the partnership is funding. According to Salner and Cartmel, the coalition is currently lacking funds, but Cartmel said she and her colleagues are prepared to request additional assistance from the state legislature, have applied for grants and are trying to attract private sector investment.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death per year in Connecticut, and the partnership’s Web site says that the state ranks eighth in the nation in new cancer cases per year.