State must maintain fight against cancer

It is estimated that approximately 110,000 New Yorkers will be diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and that more than 34,000 will die from the disease. Four cancers (breast, colorectal, lung and prostate) represent about half of all diagnoses and half of all cancer deaths. Public policy must help keep New Yorkers from getting cancer; help people to identify cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage; and minimize the financial and treatment difficulties cancer patients face.

Yet, instead of helping to reduce cancer rates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal threatens to cut lifesaving programs that help prevent cancer deaths. Further, he proposes to take all of the state’s chronic disease programs and lump them into one appropriation and then cut the aggregate amount currently funding these programs from roughly $70 million to $63 million.

Two programs in particular, the New York State Tobacco Control Program, which has proven to be effective in reducing the number of adults who smoke and the number of children taking up this deadly addiction, and the state’s Cancer Services Program, which offers free breast, cervical and colorectal screenings for uninsured New Yorkers, face significant cuts under the governor’s budget plan. This, despite the state reaping over $2 billion annually from tobacco revenues.

The budget plan turns the state money for all public health programs into a competitive lottery that would significantly reduce the percentage of eligible participants and threaten critical programs. Thusly, the budget ignores what should be critical, even vital, health imperatives: Helping people quit and avoid smoking, and preserving access to screening procedures for uninsured New Yorkers. The State Legislature must ensure that these critical programs are strengthened, not diminished, and reject the proposed budgetary reorganization.

Thomas S. Mang