Cancer Panel Critiques U.S. Government for Lack of Illness-Prevention

The President’s Cancer Panel–consisting of Lance Armstrong, Dr. Margaret Kripke and Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall–says, in its new report, that the U.S. government should be doing more to promote environments and lifestyles that prevent cancer and other diseases.

Part of the report’s argument is that most federal funding for cancer research goes towards genetic and microbiological solutions, and that macro-solutions involving environmental and social factors are neglected. This is part of a general problem in the philosophy of health care in the U.S., the report says: we are overly focused on treatment rather than prevention.

Of course treatments are important, but the report is right in its criticism of the neglect of the concept of a healthy lifestyle in U.S. health care. Making such lifestyles possible would require social changes as well as personal changes–which may be one reason why the government and our society finds it more convenient to focus on treatment, as treatment will not require systemic overhaul of society. It is more tempting to try and simply patch people up with treatments rather than take the time and effort to ensure that fewer people get sick in the first place.

Here are some examples of environmental and social factors that the report considers responsible for poor American health: lack of fresh food access, lack of access to healthy food in general (for those in poorer socioeconomic conditions), large subsidies to producers of corn and so which are processed into foods that contribute to various diseases, lack of opportunity to exercise and lack of health insurance.

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