Public policy victories are a crucial element in the battle against cancer

Fighting cancer is as much a public policy issue as it is a medical and scientific challenge.

Fighting cancer is as much a public policy issue as it is a medical and scientific challenge. Our nation has come a long way in the fight against cancer. Since the mid-1970s, cancer patient survival rates have greatly improved. But it is still an epidemic - 1,500 Americans die every day. Lawmakers and policymakers play a key role in this battle as they make decisions that can save lives.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, is dedicated to working with elected officials to eliminate death and suffering from cancer. It utilizes its expert capacity in lobbying, policy development, grassroots mobilization, and communications to give a voice to patients, survivors, caregivers, and their families who are urging their lawmakers to join the fight.

In November, the network launched a multi-pronged campaign asking Congress to make fighting cancer a national priority. We produced a TV spot featuring a "Wall of Hope" in front of the US Capitol made out of 1,584 sticky notes with tributes from people across the US to their loved ones who have battled cancer. The ad ran at the time the congressional "super committee" was mulling ways to reduce the federal deficit and continued to run in December while Congress debated federal spending priorities.

The ad, which premiered on Meet the Press in the DC market and aired nationally on major cable networks, is part of a grassroots effort to protect federal funding for groundbreaking research at the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that promote prevention and early detection, and policies that expand access to healthcare.

The network's grassroots advocates placed thousands of calls and emails into the offices of super-committee members and congressional leaders throughout the fall. Advocates held events in congressional districts across the US, including bus tours and rallies to build a "Wall of Hope" like the one seen in the TV ad, to call on Congress to protect cancer funding. Grassroots activities generated volunteer letters to the editor in local papers across the US, and contributed to the 27,000-plus views of the TV ad on YouTube as of early December, making it our most-watched video.

Work to protect vital funding continues, as do efforts in support of strong tobacco-control measures, results, policies that improve healthcare access, and prevention and early detection programs.

Chris Hansen is president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

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