Ige Pledges $10M in State's Cancer Battle Plan

Written by: Kristen Consillio, Star Advertiser, December 15, 2016 @ 12:05am

Gov. David Ige on Wednesday reiterated his commitment to cancer research at a summit of the Hawaii Comprehensive Cancer Coalition, which has set a five-year goal to promote prevention, early detection, equitable access to care, and quality of life for cancer survivors through a public health campaign.

“As governor, I am committed to providing additional resources to combat cancer and engage in cancer research in Hawaii,” said Ige, who pledged to put $10 million into his upcoming budget for the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, a day after President Barack Obama signed legislation for $1.8 billion in new investments into cancer research.

The governor is proposing $5 million for cancer research in both fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

“With our rapid advancements in technology and medical research, it’s time to find a cure once and for all,” Ige said in opening remarks at the summit.

The Hawaii Comprehensive Cancer Coalition is administered by the state Department of Health and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advocate cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.

“We do pretty well compared to other states on cancer incidents and mortality, but there are huge disparities. Mortality from cancer is three times (higher) for Native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders,” said Virginia Pressler, director of the Department of Health. “We don’t seem to have made too much progress on that.”

Sen. Roz Baker, a panelist at the conference, committed to working with lawmakers next year to increase the e-cigarette tax; allow pharmacists to administer vaccines for the human papillomavirus — the most common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cancer; and support a statewide cancer screening project.

In its public health campaign, the coalition targets schools, health care systems, and work sites.

“Our strategy is to improve outcomes from cancer in places where people live, work and play,” said DOH epidemiologist Ranjani Starr. “We want to make work sites and schools healthy environments where people and children spend a lot of their time.”

The first aspect of the campaign includes educating the public on the importance of healthy living, preventing skin cancer, and increasing vaccinations for hepatitis B and HPV. The second pillar focuses on increasing screenings for breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate and lung cancer for early detection, particularly in medically underserved populations in rural communities. The plan also aims to increase participation in cancer clinical trials for residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds and improve outreach in the community to address disparities among different populations.

The last part of the plan establishes quality of life programs for cancer survivors.

“The best way to treat cancer is to not treat cancer at all,” said Randall Holcombe, director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center. “There are ways to prevent cancer with lifestyle changes and dietary changes. You also have to do preventive measures. Our system was really designed not as health care system but as a sick-care system. We need to treat health rather than the disease.”