by Elise Frame
On July 7-8, The LIVESTRONG Foundation will join forces with a coalition of dozens of other cancer nonprofit organizations and health care advocates on Capitol Hill to bring attention to the needs of cancer patients and their families as Congress considers the budget for the 2015 fiscal year. The coalition, One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC), is a collaborative effort that began January of 2000 with the purpose of delivering a unified message to Congress and the White House: There is a crucial need for increased funding for cancer research, treatment, survivorship and prevention in the Congressional budget. Although OVAC members work tirelessly year-round to bring attention to the need for cancer-related funding, once a year the coalition organizes an annual Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. Volunteer representatives from each of the member organizations come to Washington, D.C. for training on legislative issues and advocacy methods. After they’ve completed the training portion, advocates spend a full day meeting with legislators to share their stories, concerns and specific requests.OVAC empowers its volunteers and those touched by cancer to deliver their messages creatively and powerfully to policymakers, putting a human face to the numbers and statistics of cancer in America.
Ashley Elder, Community Programs and Engagement Coordinator at LIVESTRONG, will be joining the coalition at Capitol Hill in the coming weeks to assist with the training and logistics of Lobby Day. “OVAC is a living thing throughout the entire year, but it culminates on this day where we train individuals who come to D.C. and OVAC schedules Hill visits for them,” said Elder. “They take what they’ve learned on health advocacy and specifically look to get legislators and decision-makers to support increasing awareness for cancer research, advocacy and general support on a national level, and to make it a national priority.”
“LIVESTRONG brings about 30 to 40 [delegates] every year. We try to get people who are really interested in advocacy. We pull from the LIVESTRONG Leaders program predominantly– individuals who have shown and demonstrated advocacy before and who have relationships on the local level [with officials], or at least are out there, really aware of what bills are being passed. Then we bring them up to date about this year… what exactly are those specific asks, what is potentially in danger if certain bills aren’t passed,” explained Elder.
This year, OVAC has identified the following asks as top priorities:
- Provide $5.26 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
- End the decline of cancer’s share of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by ensuring that any increase for NCI is proportional to the overall increase for NIH.
- Support cancer prevention, screening programs and cancer registries in every state by increasing funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cancer programs.
- Support a FY 2015 budget for the CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control of $510 million.
OVAC states that the NIH budget comprises less than 1% of the entire federal budget ($28.9 billion of $3.6 trillion), and federal spending for NIH has been on a downward trend since 2003. OVAC also points out that federal funding has played a role in nearly every major advance in the fight against cancer. Furthermore, funding for research is also a model for economic growth, both short and long term. For example, in 2011 the $23 billion in research that NIH funded across all 50 states directly and indirectly supported more than 432,000 jobs and produced more than $62 billion in new economic activity. Federal funding of cancer research is not only important in the fight to cure cancer, but also in the ongoing fight to turn the economy around for the better too.
“OVAC is vital because we have these decision makers in government and it’s completely useless if we don’t utilize them. I think sometimes people forget, but they are there to do what we want as district members. They are there to listen to us and then make educated decisions that include what we want,” explained Elder.
“These legislators are making the decisions that completely dictate where we’re putting our money, and that can mean a lot to people who have been affected by a cancer diagnosis, so this is a huge opportunity for us to make sure that’s in the forefront of [legislators] minds as they go and make these decisions.”
If you’re interested in getting involved this year during OVAC, here are a few ways you can take action and let your voice be heard: