ATLANTAThe dramatic announcement by the American Cancer Society that it would devote its entire $15 million advertising budget to the consequences of inadequate healthcare coverage on cancer patients took many in the oncology community by surprise and drew some criticism in the media. But according to the Society's executives, the move was necessary to meet its goal of reducing cancer mortality by 50% by 2015. In an interview with Oncology NEWS International, Richard C. Wender, MD, ACS national volunteer president, and John R. Seffrin, PhD, the Society's CEO, explain the Society's reasoning and suggest that the ACS will widen its role in promoting universal access to healthcare.
ONI: What drove the Society's decision to devote its advertising budget to the issue of access to healthcare?
DR. WENDER: We decided to devote our paid advertising dollars to promote political awareness, which is really the goal of these ads, because we determined that it's imperative for our leaders to recognize the critical role that universal healthcare access plays in America's cancer fight. I realize some people think we're making an audacious decision. We think of it as a very clear decision. Frankly, unless we solve the access to care issue, we won't achieve our goal of reducing the incidence and mortality of cancer.
DR. SEFFRIN: We think of this as a mission-critical decision. Never before has a voluntary health organization done a paid media campaign to point out the broken healthcare system by showing the faces of real people with cancer fighting for their life, as well as having to fight for the care that we think they deserve.
In the early 1990s, ACS set goals to reduce cancer mortality by 50% by 2015. We've had 15 successive years of decreasing age-standardized mortality rates. However, our studies showed we were on a trajectory to fall far short of our goal.
The Board of Directors said, "Well, Mr. CEO, tell us what we have to do to make those goals." So we did a very thorough analysis and found that the only thing that could keep us from ever reaching our 2015 goals was the broken healthcare system itself. That's what informed our decision to take a more global approach to fighting cancer.
ONI: Are there studies to support your decision?