June 24, 2005

Plan unveiled to ease state’s cancer burden

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Kenneth Robinson, M.D., commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, speaks at the first Summit on the Burden of Cancer in Tennessee, held last week at Vanderbilt.
photo by Dana Johnson

Plan unveiled to ease state’s cancer burden

A comprehensive plan to tackle the state's cancer problem — which will affect 31,000 people and claim 12,000 lives in Tennessee this year — was unveiled last week at the first Summit on the Burden of Cancer in Tennessee.

More than 225 cancer professionals from across the state attended the event at the Vanderbilt Student Life Center. The Tennessee Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan was developed by a coalition of more than 160 people representing 75 organizations, including two dozen individuals from Vanderbilt. The plan and its implementation will be funded by a grant to the Tennessee Department of Health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Taking the vision of this coalition — to measurably reduce the burden of cancer on citizens of Tennessee — and making it a reality will require the dedication and work of all of us, done in coordination and collaboration,” Harold Moses, M.D., director emeritus of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and honorary chair of the coalition, said in a statement.

Acting chair Debra Wujcik, R.N., M.S.N., noted that the process began in 2000 and was formally funded by a CDC planning grant in 2003, at which time many other states had already developed and begun implementation of their own plans. “We're a little behind but catching up fast,” said Wujcik, director of Clinical Trials Training and Outreach for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and its partnership with Meharry Medical College. “We plan to be the model state in the very near future.”

Guest speakers also included Kenneth Robinson, commissioner of the state's Department of Health; Sydney McPhee, president of Middle Tennessee State University, which played a major role in writing the plan based on the coalition's work; and former U.S. Rep. Bob Clement. The Summit was planned by a subcommittee of coalition members, spearheaded by Sheila Bates, manager of outreach for Vanderbilt-Ingram.

“Your goal is a lofty one, but it is one that is achievable by following, and over time revising, this plan and with the work of volunteers across the state,” Robinson told the group.

The plan, which is intended to guide the state's efforts the next three years, outlines four overall objectives toward the goal to reduce the burden of cancer in Tennessee:

• Clarify the source, existence and extent of disparities among population groups;

• Increase access to cancer prevention, detection and treatment for all citizens of Tennessee;

• Provide Tennesseans education and educational materials on issues related to cancer by creating additional partnerships with appropriate individuals and agencies;

• Encourage research on cancer-related issues within the state by providing the resources necessary for meaningful study.

The plan also outlines goals and objectives for several specific areas, including tobacco-related cancers, prostate cancer, melanoma and colorectal cancer, as well as “cross-cutting” issues such as health disparities, health literacy and legislative advocacy.

The most important barrier to cancer control in Tennessee, Wujcik said, is the uneven system of surveillance in the state.

Without adequate data on who has cancer and where they are located, effective strategies to prevent the disease and better treat it will continue to be a challenge, she said.

For more information about the Coalition or to obtain a copy of the plan, visit www2.state.tn.us/-health/cccp.