About 100 cancer survivors, caregivers, doctors and nurses traveled to Jefferson City on Wednesday to ask Missouri lawmakers to make fighting cancer a priority.
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Missouri government relations director Emily Kalmer tells 939 the Eagle that smoking cessation efforts are important.
“Tobacco use is related to about a third of all cancer deaths. So we want to make sure that there (is) every resource available for folks who want to quit, and to make sure that kids never get started in the first place,” Kalmer says.
The American Cancer Society joined Missouri’s governor in August at Columbia’s MU Health, where Governor Mike Parson announced the largest single investment into tobacco cessation in state history. The program was increased from $50,000 to $2.5 million in general revenue. The governor tells 939 the Eagle that 11,000 deaths are caused by smoking each year in Missouri.
Missouri lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and Capitol visitors noticed a 40-foot inflatable colon on Wednesday inside the Statehouse in Jefferson City. It was a key component in the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s call for lawmakers to make fighting cancer a priority.
“We know how important it is for folks to get their cancer screenings so we can detect cancer early when it’s the most treatable. When we have something … a big visual like the inflatable colon, we can help remind people to get their screening,” says Kalmer.
Survivors, caregivers and others met with with Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter (R-Jefferson City) and numerous other lawmakers in both parties. Ms. Kalmer emphasizes that their organization is nonpartisan and that they have champions on both sides of the aisle.
Cancer survivors and caregivers are asking Missouri lawmakers to continue to implement Medicaid expansion, which was approved by voters in 2020. Ms. Kalmer says Medicaid expansion saves lives.
“But we also know that it’s important for getting cancer detected earlier. There are improved rates of colorectal cancer, prostate and cervical cancer screening in states that have expanded Medicaid. And there’s a longer-term survival impact for states where they have expanded Medicaid,” Kalmer says.
Missouri Governor Parson’s proposed budget continues to fund Medicaid expansion. The state Department of Social Services’ (DSS) website says the number of Missourians receiving Medicaid benefits has gone up for at least 11 straight months, increasing from 1.2 million in February 2022 to more than 1.4 million people in January.
Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s full interview with American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Missouri government relations director Emily Kalmer, which was recorded on March 22, 2023: