Governor Steve Beshear today joined health advocates, lawmakers and survivors of colon cancer to raise awareness of the disease and to highlight the need for more prevention and education funding across Kentucky.
"Colon cancer is a terrible disease that affects the lives of many Kentucky families," Gov. Beshear said. "We have staggering numbers associated with colon cancer in our state, so we must continue to work together to change its course if we are to make a real difference."
Kentucky's incidence of colon cancer was the highest in the nation from 2005-2009. The incidence rate was 19 percent higher than the national average. Kentucky also had the fourth-highest colon and rectal cancer death rate in the United States.
For the second straight budget, Gov. Beshear is proposing $1 million for the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program, or KCCSP, located within the Kentucky Department of Public Health, to continue screenings for low income and uninsured Kentuckians. The Kentucky Cancer Foundation will match the budget allocation.
"There is good news about this disease; it is highly preventable with screening," Gov. Beshear said.
Gov. Beshear and the nonprofit Kentucky Cancer Foundation announced their partnership in early 2012. The foundation is halfway to its goal of matching dollar-for-dollar the $1 million in funding Gov. Beshear placed in his 2012-2014 biennial budget to help the foundation institute selected portions of the state's overall Kentucky Cancer Action Plan.
The initial collaborative project, the KCCSP, is in the process of screening up to 4,000 uninsured Kentuckians through June 30, 2014. To date, more than 1,000 Kentuckians have participated in the program through the efforts of many community partners that include local health departments, hospitals, physicians and federally qualified health centers.
"The Department of Health was honored to accept the responsibility for implementation of the KCCSP and provide training, advising and program management," said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of the department. "I would like to thank all of the many partners who continue to make this program successful."
The Governor said his partnership with the foundation is a perfect example of the type of effort needed to provide education and prevention programs to reduce cancer across the Commonwealth. The colon cancer screenings are part of Gov. Beshear's ongoing efforts to improve the overall health of Kentuckians through the Affordable Care Act and kyhealthnow.
The Governor launched kyhealthnow last month as an aggressive and wide-ranging initiative to significantly reduce incidence and deaths from Kentucky's dismal health rankings and habits. It builds on Kentucky's successful implementation of health care reform and uses multiple strategies over the next several years to improve the state's collective health. Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson is chairing the initiative.
"Kentucky has changed lives with its support of the colon cancer screening program," said Lt. Gov. Abramson. "We will continue to partner with public and private agencies to bring awareness and services to Kentuckians through "Kentucky Health Now' and health care reform to help improve the overall health of the Commonwealth."
At today's event, the Governor signed a proclamation designating March 2014 Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Kentucky joined with the Kentucky Cancer Program and partners across the state March 7 to kick off the month with "Dress in Blue Day," chaired by Madeline Abramson, wife of Kentucky's lieutenant governor.
For health advocates and survivors of colon cancer, the proclamation brings a greater awareness of the disease to Kentuckians across the state.
"Kentucky has identified one of its major health issues, and has come together to address its colon cancer problem in a unique fashion," said Dr. Whitney Jones, founder of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project. "We've accepted that everybody should have access to proven prevention and early detection procedures. I think the state should be commended, and I think the partnership should be celebrated.
"It's essential to continue and hopefully expand the work of the KCCSP. If Kentucky is ever to address its nation-leading cancer statistics, we're going to have to address people across the socio-economic spectrum, particularly to make sure those at the highest risk who have the least ability to access services, can participate in the benefits of screening and prevention. Gov. Beshear through the funding of KCCSP has continued to demonstrate leadership in addressing Kentucky's chronic health problems," said Dr. Jones.
Gov. Beshear thanked leaders at the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and the Markey Cancer Center, along with other members of 44 cancer prevention organizations statewide, for their overall efforts to combat various types of cancer in Kentucky.
Kentucky is one of the worst states in the nation for cancer, with 54 percent of all cancer-related deaths in the state attributed to lung, breast, cervical and colon cancers.
In his budget, the Governor also proposed $1 million to expand screenings through the Kentucky Women's Cancer Screening Program to increase breast and cervical cancer screening among Kentucky women, as well as to develop systems to help women navigate the health care system.