From left: Paul Holmes of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Dr. Ellen Baker, director of Project Echo with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, meet with Rep. Grace Meng on Capitol Hill.
By Jennie Aylward, Consultant at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon . . .
United by a goal to urge U.S. leadership toward ending deaths from cervical cancer globally, representatives from 12 global health organizations spread out across Capitol Hill yesterday to educate policymakers about this neglected issue, as part of an event organized by Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.
We visited 25 congressional offices with messages about the heavy and disproportionate burden of cervical cancer in low- and middle-income countries. By doing more to address this burden, the U.S. government can protect and boost the impact of existing investments in global health: The United States must ensure that the women it protects from HIV and other diseases, and complications of pregnancy and childbirth, do not become victims of cervical cancer, which is a preventable disease.
With its support for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the National Cancer Institute, the United States already plays a role in ending cervical cancer deaths. The24 advocates who circulated around Capitol Hill yesterday are working to ensure that the U.S. government will take the next step of integrating cervical cancer prevention interventions into its successful programs to address reproductive, maternal and child health overseas.
“We can win the war against cervical cancer. We have existing tools that are cost-effective, safe, simple and which work,” one of the advocates, Dr. Shobha S. Krishnan of the Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer, told foreign affairs staff in the congressional offices that she visited. This message from Dr. Krishnan and the other Capitol Hill Day participants was received positively across the House of Representative and the Senate.
Advocates were encouraged as they heard support from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), for example, was a member of a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) task force whose recent recommendations included scaling up vaccinations against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. His staff member lamented that women die from this preventable disease. A staff member for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a longtime champion on global health issues, was eager to help build a better awareness among those on Capitol Hill of the global burden of cervical cancer. And Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a new member of the House subcommittee with responsibility for foreign assistance, met personally with a group of the advocates, and expressed appreciation that we brought the issue to her.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and its partners asked congressional decision-makers for robust funding for international affairs broadly, as well as language in Congress’ annual appropriations legislation that will better focus the U.S. government’s attention on cervical cancer globally.