The end of the year is always an exciting time in the advocacy world, especially at the end of a Congress, which only happens every two years. Often, the House and Senate find themselves facing a handful of urgent (and usually self-inflicted) deadlines that lead to a flutter of legislative activity before everyone can jump on a plane to head to their home districts, leaving Washington, D.C. awash in newly inked laws and the smell of jet fumes.
2022 was no exception – in fact, it was a big year for prostate cancer! Congress wrapped up an omnibus bill (a bunch of bills, usually including funding bills, all lumped together) that included funding for the entire government, and a handful of extras. Included in that funding was critical money to support the Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP), the most impactful federal investment in prostate cancer research that has yielded a number of new treatments and one diagnostic tool in the last decade. Funding for the PCRP stayed level at $110 million – we would have liked to have seen an increase in this dollar amount, but maintaining that program at its current size is still a success.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received an extra million dollars for prostate cancer activities, bringing that funding to $15.2 million. The extra money will allow CDC to increase its investment in education and outreach to high risk populations, especially Black men. As we know, prostate cancer disproportionately impacts Black men, who are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than the general population. Reaching Black communities to educate them about their risk and what they can do is a crucial first step to decrease this disparity.
Last, but certainly not least, included in the omnibus bill was the Veterans Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Act. ZERO has championed this legislation since its first introduction in 2020 and we’re thrilled to work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and our partners to implement it, creating a clinical pathway for prostate cancer at the VA. A clinical pathway will allow us to better ensure adequate access to care for Veterans, no matter where they live, and to track when access falls short of that standard. Passage of this bill is nothing less than we owe to our Veterans community.
Neither this, nor any of our other successes in 2022, including the Cancer Moonshot roundtable, and the passage of ZERO cost sharing legislation in Illinois, would be possible without the hard work of ZERO’s advocates. In 2022, advocates sent almost 5,000 messages about prostate cancer to their elected officials and participated in 189 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff. In 2023, I hope even more of you will join us and make it the biggest year ever for progress on prostate cancer policy. Together, we can push the U.S. one step closer to the end of prostate cancer.