Access to palliative care and smoking prevention are weak, cancer society says
When it comes to cancer-fighting policies, New York’s performance is so-so.
The state met just four out of nine benchmarks in an American Cancer Society report due out Thursday, and fell short in two areas in particular: access to palliative care and funding for smoking prevention and cessation programs.
New York is not alone in missing the mark on palliative care — which can offer relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of cancer. Only 10 states, including most of New England, met the benchmark.
Many New Yorkers do not know that palliative care includes more than hospice and can provide comfort at any stage of an illness, said Bill Sherman, the Albany-based vice president of government relations for the cancer society’s Cancer Action Network.
To improve that, the cancer society recommends steps like funding for public awareness of palliative care, requirements that physicians learn about palliative care, and preserving access to pain medications, which are becoming increasingly difficult to get amid concerns over narcotics abuse.
In the area of funding for tobacco-control programs, New York spends a fraction of the $282 million per year recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State spending on tobacco control efforts declined from $84 million in 2008-09 to $39.3 million in 2012-13, when funding leveled off.
It might be argued that funding is sufficient, as smoking rates are the lowest ever among New Yorkers, according to state data released in June. In the last four years, the smoking rate among high school students has dropped 42 percent to 7.3 percent, the state said. The adult smoking rate has dropped to 14.5 percent, below the national average of 17.8 percent.
Sherman was skeptical, however, about the figures. The state will not release the data underlying its results to the American Cancer Society, he said. He suspects smoking has increased among some pockets of the population, whether by region, age or income level.
“Nicotine is highly addictive and people need help, especially people of low income,” Sherman said.
New York met the report’s benchmarks in having prohibitive cigarette tax rates, smoke-free laws, expanded Medicaid access, and funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings.
It showed improvement, but failed to reach benchmarks, in three other areas: Medicaid coverage for smoking cessation, indoor tanning device restrictions and pain policy.
Only three states — Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine — met six out of the nine benchmarks measured. None met seven or more.
By Claire Hughes
Original article: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Report-New-York-needs-to-improve-in-cancer-fight-6427699.php