Challenging Times Require Bold Policy Actions
On April 28, 2021, in his first congressional address to the U.S. Congress, President Joe Biden proposed another major piece of legislation to put the country back on a path to enhance public health and promote economic growth. It was the latest in a series of bills from the new administration that have implications for oncology nurses and patients with cancer.
Biden Transition Team Appoints Health Experts to Lead Various Agencies
President Joe Biden made several campaign promises to improve or safeguard health care for all Americans with a focus on scientific and medical evidence. Shortly after the transfer of power, the Biden administration appointed and nominated public health experts to lead the various federal agencies dedicated to safety and biomedical research.
Coalitions Cement Nursing’s—and ONS’s—Position in Health Policy
Through two letters—one to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and another to U.S. Senate and House leaders—the Nursing Community Coalition, on whose steering committee ONS sits, congratulated policymakers while outlining the need for continued support of nurses in health care.
Biden's First 100 Days Provide Opportunities to Prioritize Health Care
“The first 100 days,” a phrase coined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, is an opportunity for a new administration to outline its early accomplishments and set a tone of reassurance. Under that philosophy, the Biden-Harrison transition team issued a series of announcements and nominations beginning in November 2020 to set a tenor and provide insight on the first phase of the new presidency.
ONS Supports Bipartisan Resolution to Recognize November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Lung cancer knows no state boundary or political ideology. But it can bring the two sides together, like it did when U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), member of the Senate Health Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a resolution to recognize November as National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. The resolution, which ONS supports, promotes the importance of and need to improve lung cancer early detection.
Cures 2.0 Act Would Expand on the Successes of 21st Century Cures Legislation
Building on the success of the 21st Century Cures Act passed in 2016, U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) have begun work on the follow-up Cures 2.0 Act, intended to “safely and efficiently modernize the delivery of health care in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” the representatives said in a press release.
Healthcare for All Is a Competing Idea in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election
When standing up for patients, championing treatments, or stopping an unfair process, nurses speak truth to power. Being on the front lines is part of every nurse’s routine, but many shy away from engaging in the policy world under similar circumstances that affect the profession, patients, and peers. It doesn’t have to be that way. Nurses can educate themselves on the candidates and policy issues and lend their voice to the political conversation.
Vaping, E-Cigarettes, and Flavored Tobacco Are Reversing 20 Years of Decreasing Smoking Rates
The public push for a transformation in tobacco policy began with a persistent legislator seeking real change. Opening his historic congressional hearing in 1994, U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, “The truth is that cigarettes are the single most dangerous consumer product ever sold. Nearly a half million Americans die every year as a result of tobacco. This is an astounding, almost incomprehensible statistic. Imagine our nation’s outrage if two fully loaded jumbo jets crashed each day, killing all aboard. Yet that is the same number of Americans that cigarettes kill every 24 hours. Sadly, this deadly habit begins with our kids. Each day 3,000 children will begin smoking. In many cases they become hooked quickly and develop a life-long addiction that is nearly impossible to break.”
Texas Nurses Show Advocacy in Action by Bringing the Message Home to Policymakers
As the largest ONS chapter in the United States with more than 2,000 members, the Houston ONS Chapter is primed to make an impact with the state’s lawmakers. In August 2019, chapter members did just that, combining forces with other local chapters for a pilot event featuring ONS policy education and advocacy training deep in the heart of Texas. Almost 100 ONS members participated to get support and education to speak with decision makers about the needs of the profession as well as the patients oncology nurses serve.
Nurse Meets With New Hampshire Lawmakers to Connect Them to ONS Health Policy
While representing ONS in June 2019 at the National Institute for Nursing Research in Bethesda, MD, I met with my state’s congressional delegation to introduce ONS’s health policy legislative agenda to their offices on Capitol Hill. Despite it being one of the hottest days on record for the nation’s capital, the congressional offices offered a cool place for health policy discussions.
Tobacco 21 Gets Federal Boost
In February 2019, the U.S. Surgeon General declared the rise of youth vaping was the latest epidemic facing the American public. Reversing a two-decades-long trend of declining smoking rates among underage smokers, e-cigarette use and vaping have become commonplace among children younger than 18.
America’s Old Tobacco Business Reignites as a New Industry
America’s love affair with tobacco has a long and sordid history. As automated machines ushered in a new age of modernization in the early 20th century, cigarettes were readily available as never before. Although some in the temperance movement believed tobacco products were the gateway to alcohol and drug abuse, by the 1930s and 1940s, physicians were touting cigarettes as almost a healing treatment that calmed the nerves and desensitized the body with positive effects.
Lowy Appointed NCI Acting Director
Government service isn’t forever. Dynamic, transformative leaders enter and leave federally appointed positions for a variety of reasons and new appointments. Such was the case for the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) former director Norman Sharpless, MD, who was appointed to head the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April 2019 after Scott Gottlieb, MD, announced he would step down.
DOJ Says ACA Invalid; Pre-Existing Condition Protections; Medicaid Work Requirements
In a move that echoed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) previous stance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Trump administration’s DOJ announced it was siding with a lower court’s ruling that stated ACA was invalid and unconstitutional. Siding with conservative state attorneys general who sued and won a lower federal court judgment on the constitutionality of law, DOJ issued a terse, two-sentence letter supporting the judge’s decision to strike the law down.
Federal Furlough Forlorn: Cancer Care’s Constraints
On January 25, 2019, President Trump announced a deal to end the longest U.S. government partial shutdown in history—35 days of closed public places and programs, furloughed or unpaid federal employees, and an apprehensive American nation. What was its impact on health policy and, more specifically, cancer care?
Trump Promises $500 Million Increase to Pediatric Cancer Research
Pediatric cancers have more than an 80% overall cure rate, and that, at first glance, seems like something to celebrate. However, in terms of lives lost to different pediatric cancers, the American Cancer Society estimated that more than 1,100 children under the age of 15 will die from their disease in 2019—roughly one in five children diagnosed. Although survival rates are improving in cancers like acute lymphocytic leukemia and Hodgkin lymphoma, other childhood cancer types haven’t seen increased survival since the early 2000s.
Surgeon General Declares Youth Vaping an Epidemic
Since their inception, e-cigarettes have made the public health sector uneasy. Initial reports suggested that e-cigarettes could be an opportunity for long-time adult smokers to step down their usage, acting as a bridge to smoking cessation. However, recent reports indicate that youth vaping and e-cigarette use has risen sharply in the past two years—creating an entirely new generation of smokers. U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, .
What the Midterm Election Results Mean for Health Policy in 2019
Election results may appear to be seismic shifts, jarring the foundations of the American political system to its core as voters stare in disbelief, attempting to translate the meaning of the public’s intent. But is that really the case?
Capitol Hill Days Brings Nurses’ Voices to Policymakers
Since 2016, ONS has gathered hundreds of nurse advocates in the nation’s capital to speak truth to power during its annual Hill Days conference. This two-day meeting brings more than 100 oncology nurses to Washington, DC, to learn about the Society’s health policy legislative agenda and to be trained in how to educate elected officials on the priority issues most important to ONS members.
Advocacy Community Supports NCI Fiscal Year 2020 Proposal
A billion dollars was once an astronomical amount of money to spend on one federal agency. But since the 1950s when Senator Dirksen (R-IL) was a leading voice for fiscal conservatives, the federal government’s budget has ballooned, with both political parties equally responsible for increases. During this time, great achievements have been made, and much of it in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as what former Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) often referred to as the crown jewel of the federal government.
An Oncology Nurse’s Primer on the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act
When Senator John McCain (R-AZ) passed away in August 2018 from aggressive glioblastoma just one day after his family announced he stopped treatment, it put a poignant highlight in Washington on a need of which oncology nurses are far too aware: palliative care and hospice. Ideally, palliative care begins at the time of a cancer diagnosis and is aimed at managing symptoms throughout the cancer journey. Hospice begins when a patient’s prognosis is six months or less, yet in most cases, as McCain’s illustrates, patients begin hospice far too close to death. Many point to a lack of awareness and education—for patients and the public as well as oncology nurses and other palliative care providers.
Oncology Nurse Appointed to PCORI Board of Governors
As the U.S. government’s arm of patient-centered research, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research institute (PCORI) is driving new initiatives and opportunities focused on unlocking novel treatment methods and cutting-edge interventions to better care for patients. On September 24, 2018, PCORI announced its new Board of Governors, naming ONS member Christopher Friese, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, as the agency’s first nursing research representative to hold a seat on the board.
Biden Cancer Summit; PCORI Governing Board; Low-Income Smokers
The Biden Cancer Summit was held in Washington, DC, on September 21, 2018. The day-long event was filled with cancer-related educational sessions—some hosted by ONS leadership—discussing ways to move cancer research and care forward. Formerly dubbed the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, the country-wide effort to make a quantum leap in cancer care has evolved in into the Biden Cancer Initiative (BCI). BCI’s ongoing work will continue to break down barriers and help providers and researchers overcome obstacles as they work toward progress in cancer care.
Key Federal Health Policy Legislation Updates for 2018
’Tis the season. Well, at least in DC, it’s an exciting time. A political year. A long summer recess. A host of bills that are on the verge of passing. We are all aflutter with anticipation of the possibilities. But legislators need to remember who sent them to Washington and for what reason. Advocacy begins at home, and elected officials are heartened by what their constituents request, especially when that legislation is bipartisan and emotional and can affect people’s lives.
U.S. House Passes Two ONS Priority Bills to Advance Palliative Care and Strengthen Nursing Workforce
On July 23, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote two ONS priority bills that would provide palliative care training, awareness, and research and funding to build the nursing workforce.
House Overwhelmingly Passes Final Opioid Package; Texas v. the United States Could Impact Patients With Preexisting Conditions; Lawmakers Who Forged ACA Look Back
Through tremendous bipartisan support, the House of Representatives passed comprehensive opioid legislation to address the national abuse epidemic in the United States on June 22, 2018. For many healthcare advocates, an opioid legislation package has been a long time coming. The opioid crisis has been in the news since before the 2016 presidential election but was brought to the forefront during that campaign.
Two ONS Priority Health Bills Make Progress Out of House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health
On June 27, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health passed by voice vote two health bills that have been among ONS’s top legislative priorities: the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act ([PCHETA], H.R. 1676) and the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H.R. 959). The bills are now poised for consideration by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Cancer Prevention and Awareness Starts With Oncology Nurses
April is designated as National Cancer Control Month in the United States. It’s a federally endorsed observation, annually encouraged by a proclamation from the president. April is dedicated to raising awareness for cancer prevention and treatment throughout the country. Approved through a joint resolution by Congress in 1938, the yearly presidential announcement serves as a reminder to all Americans that awareness of the factors that cause or prevent cancer are crucial to the public health.
Medicare Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
At the center of the President Lyndon B. Johnson’s great society was Medicare, a federal program designed as a partial safety net primarily for America’s older adults. It was signed into law on July 30, 1965. Controversial at the time, it is now sacrosanct and often referred to as the “third rail of politics”: touch it and die.
ONS Member Advocates for Patient Involvement in Clinical Pathways
I was selected to represent ONS as a panelist at the Cancer Innovation Coalition meeting held in Washington, DC in February 2018. The meeting, “Integrating Patient Perspective into Clinical Pathways: A Dialogue Between Stakeholders,” brought together patient advocates, healthcare professionals, and technology stakeholders to address and identify the importance of patient-centered care and involving patients in clinical pathways. The National Patient Advocate Foundation released an article outlining the topics covered in our discussion.
CDC Has New Director Designee
Presidential appointees come, and presidential appointees go. Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) director resigned for financial conflicts of interest. The new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, Alex Azar, sought to fill the important public health role as soon as possible. With opioids, the flu, vaccine shortages, and cancer prevention under the purview of the CDC, finding a new director was crucial to continuing the agency’s work. Since many of the CDC’s top officials are often reported on in the news, replacing the director was also essential for public trust in public health.
Right-to-Try Bill Fails to Pass House; Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Help Patients Navigate Cancer Care; President’s Cancer Panel Urges Action to Lower Drug Costs
Legislation ushering experimental drugs and treatments to patients without U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval hit a snag on March 13, 2018, after it failed to garner enough votes in the House of Representatives. The right-to-try bill, a priority for the Trump administration, didn’t accrue the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass it along to the Senate. Lawmakers opposed to the bill had lingering questions about the safety concerns connected to bypassing FDA regulations for patients searching for new treatments. Patient advocacy groups have been speaking out against tenets of the bill, expressing concern for removing the FDA from the process.
National Agencies Recognize Oncology Nursing’s Role in Coordinated Patient Care
We live in the greatest age of scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs. Advances in the innovation and understanding of diseases are providing more insight into how we treat, and often cure, people with life-threatening illnesses. What was once deemed a death sentence diagnosis is now described as a chronic disorder, that can be handled with the help of the patient and a team of healthcare providers.
CDC Offers Insight on Common Cancer Questions
To ensure more Americans understand the public health implications of cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking an active role in creating awareness activities. By posting commonly asked questions, the CDC hopes to demystify cancer and its treatment to the uninitiated, while also helping survivors and caregivers better comprehend the cancer journey.
Cancer Prevention Is Political Pillow Talk
On February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, I had the honor of representing the ONS at the Congressional Families Caucus with Alec Stone, ONS director for public affairs, who made the connection between Congressional Families and ONS. The Congressional Families Caucus is made up of spouses of congressional members serving in the House of Representatives and Senate.
President’s Budget Proposal Recommends Severe Cuts to HHS
Putting together the federal budget is an arduous task. Department by department, suggestions for program funding increases and decreases are reviewed, discussed, analyzed, and submitted. Budget officials are trying to match the administration’s priorities and review the fiscal environment, not to mention craft spending items to gain support from congress, who ultimately votes on the budget.
2018 U.S. Budget Agreement Contains Key Wins for ONS—Plus an Area of Concern
The U.S. Congress continued its budget pattern in February, enacting another extension of the 2017 budget agreement into law on February 8, 2018. The current iteration of the budget law will raise caps on defense and non-defense spending over two years and keep the federal government running through March 23, but more importantly, it includes the following provisions of special interest to ONS.
States Have a Role in Creating Public Health Policies
The federal government structure in Washington, DC, is hard to ignore. U.S. children are taught about it in schools, and we hear about it regularly as elections, legislation, appointments, and the like are discussed in the news. Less recognized, though, is that each state has a similar legislative structure.
NIH: A Look Back at 2017 in Research
To plan for a strong future, one must understand the past. Reviewing the previous year’s accomplishments is always a good policy for reflection and improvement. It can help remind us of the accomplishments achieved in 12 short months. Such was the case at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as director Francis Collins addressed the research achievements for 2017 in his opening blog.
National Roundtable Will Work to Increase HPV Vaccination
The American Cancer Society has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote public awareness and adoption for the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. The joint initiative, dubbed the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, brings together public, private, and voluntary experts to raise awareness of the benefits of the vaccine in an effort to decrease incidence and mortality rates associated with HPV cancers.
National Academies Explain the Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released its latest report on the consequences of smoking, specifically related to electronic cigarettes. The report discusses the new effects of e-cigarettes as a public health hazard. According to the report, the effects of long-term e-cigarette use are still unknown, especially related to morbidity and mortality.
First Session of the 115th U.S. Congress Will See Three Oncology-Related Acts
Thousands of pieces of legislation are introduced in each Congress, but only a small percentage make it through the entire process, especially in that first year. Bills that are not voted into law and signed by the president during that two-year period “die” when the second session is completed and Congress adjourns. According to congressional rules, “A bill may be introduced at any point during a two-year Congress. It will remain eligible for consideration throughout the duration of that Congress until the Congress ends or adjourns sine die.”
PCORI Helps Patients Choose the Right Breast Cancer Treatment
Many women face a lack of information and understanding after their breast cancer diagnoses. Currently, women have more treatment options than ever before, and patients have the ability to review the latest findings to identify the option that fits best for their lives.
Cancer Moonshot Offers Funding Opportunities
Since its initial announcement, the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative—dubbed the Biden Cancer Initiative—has captivated the scientific, patient advocacy, and provider communities with possibilities for advancements in cancer treatments and cures. The cancer moonshot continues to maintain bipartisan support, as all involved are committed to making a decade’s worth of progress in just half the time.
NCI Advancements Are Pushing Research Forward for Patients
Former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) put partisanship aside to support federal funding for biomedical research. And, while battling cancer himself, he spoke about the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its crucial role in finding treatments and cures. “Health is our nation’s number one asset. Without your health, you can’t do anything. I believe medical research should be pursued with all possible haste to cure the diseases and maladies affecting Americans. I have said many times that the NIH is the crown jewel of the federal government—perhaps the only jewel of the federal government.”
New Director Sworn in at NCI
For the past two years, an acting director has served at the head of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). However, President Trump recently selected Norman E. Sharpless, MD, as the 15th director of the NCI. Sharpless, an oncologist with research and clinical experience, said he was humbled by the selection and is looking forward to carrying on NCI’s great mission.
Lancet Oncology Commission Releases Cancer Research Priorities
The future of oncology care hinges on the implementation of new sciences, the collaboration of researchers, and timeliness with which healthcare professionals can integrate change into practice, according to a new report released by Lancet Oncology.
CDC Releases Latest Cancer Report
Breakthroughs and advancements in research and management have significantly changed the ways we understand how cancer works and how best to treat it. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its Annual Report to the Nation on the State of Cancer.