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July 25, 2008
By Sarah Green
KHI News Service
July 25, 2008
LAWRENCE Members of the Kansas Cancer Partnership met Friday to discuss revisions to the state"s cancer plan.
The Kansas Comprehensive Cancer Control and Prevention Plan , published in 2005, has helped guide public health efforts to reduce cancer cases. But Dr. Gary Doolittle, the group"s chairman, said the plan should be updated.
"The landscape is different now," he said.
The current plan would require an annual budget of $60 million, more than the Legislature would likely approve in lean budget times, Doolittle told the group.
The plan includes recommendations for improving the timeliness and number of cancer screenings, methods to prevent the disease, and treatment. It also addresses "survivorship" and end-of-life care.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the state receives a federal grant of $3.4 million for cancer programs, including the Early Detection Works program, the state"s cancer registry, and for other activities related to the comprehensive cancer plan.
Legislators this past session considered adding $4 million for expanded cancer screenings, but instead elected to give $2.5 million to safety net clinics with the expectation that some of those funds would be used for the screenings.
Doolittle said he knew it would be difficult to find funding for the entire plan. But he encouraged those at the meeting to brainstorm revisions to the plan that would require little or no money, or use novel methods for funding.
"Some of the things we want to do are free," he said. "A statewide smoking ban would be free. An increase in the tobacco tax wouldn"t cost the state a thing."
About 12,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year, according to Doolittle; 5,000 Kansans die annually from the various forms of the disease. Breast and lung cancer are among the leading killers of women. Prostate and lung cancers are among the leading killers of men.
The annual cancer cost for the state is $1.6 billion, which includes direct medical costs, lost productivity due to illness and cost due to premature death, Doolittle said.
Marcia Nielsen, executive director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, told the group that her agency would again push for a statewide smoking ban and increased taxes on tobacco products.
She asked for the group"s assistance in explaining the need and benefit of both policies.
"This has to be looked at from multiple angles," she said, including the health effects and the cost to the state.
Tobacco use is linked to $196 million in health care costs within the Kansas Medicare program alone.
KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby applauded the group"s efforts.
But he compared the struggle to educate the public on healthy behaviors and reducing health care costs to Texas oil giant T. Boone Pickens" recent media campaign to reduce the country"s dependence on foreign oil.
"He spent $52 million of his own money to explain the problem facing the country," Bremby said. "Where"s the businessman or businesswoman spending his or her money to explain the problems facing health care?"
The group will continue to meet regularly through the rest of the year to work on the plan revisions. For more information on the Kansas Cancer Partnership, visit www.cancerkansas.com .
-Sarah Green is a staff writer for KHI News Service, which specializes in coverage of health issues facing Kansans. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 785-233-5443, ext. 118.