"In a stark departure from past practice, the American Cancer Society plans to devote its entire $15 million advertising budget this year not to smoking cessation or colorectal screening but to the consequences of inadequate health coverage."
The change in emphasis was applauded by the leaders of the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and others. It's the first time that a disease-fighting charity organization has broadened its scope beyond its primary area of concern. But recent research has found that the lack of insurance can mean delays in detecting cancer. John Seffrin, the ceo of the society, said that if people can't afford cancer screening and treatment, then advances in prevention and research have less impact.
Two 60-second televisions commercials have been released so far, both of them using images of uninsured people, including a young mother whose family is in debt for her cancer treatments. The narrator of the second ad asks “Is the choice between caring for yourself and caring for your family really a choice?”
The cancer society will buy time on network and cable channels from Sept. 17 to Thanksgiving, and will also place ads in magazines and on Web sites. Greg Donaldson, the group’s vice president for corporate communications, acknowledges that the move is risky for the non-profit organization. The ads are strictly non-partisan and they avoid recommendations for ways to deal with the health insurance issue. But they do focus on the need for action by any future administration, and they direct viewers to a web site which is linked to the society's lobbying arm.
There isn't total agreement within the organization about the change from a comparatively narrow focus to a concern with the importance of insurance. There is widespread approval, but Valerie C. Robinson, a board member of the Jacksonville, Fla., chapter, said that insurance coverage is “not our fight.”
Studies have shown that late diagnoses of cancer, including breast cancer, and and cancers of the larynx and mouth, lead to more deaths, and the rate of death is greatest among the uninsured.