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Facing Forward: Making a Difference in Cancer

  • Posted: 01/20/2011

Government programs

Working with government programs

“After my cancer treatment I started going to meetings, and got information that I passed along to others. Later on, I was asked to be on a government committee about funding for cancer research. Since then, I’ve been on lots of government committees. When I’m working with these groups, I try to speak up for others facing cancer.”
— Lee, 47, cancer survivor

Survivors and their families can make a difference in the types of programs the government offers to people with cancer (or people at risk for developing cancer). They can bring an important community perspective to government.

There are three levels of government cancer programs:

  • Local. Many county and city health departments have cancer education, awareness, and screening programs. To ensure that programs work well, these departments often ask survivors and their family members to get involved. For example, a local health department might ask for advice about what types of projects should go forward.

  • State. States also offer programs to improve cancer care and reduce cancer deaths. These programs may focus on cancer education, prevention, early detection, or treatment. For example, a state may run a program educating older men about prostate cancer.

  • National. Just as local governments need the advice of consumers, the federal government has several programs that benefit from the advice of cancer survivors and their families. For example, cancer advocates may provide input when cancer funding efforts are prioritized, by participating on committees or reviewing research proposals.

How to get started in government programs

Decide if you want to get involved at the local, state, or national level. You may want to start out in your home county. Be aware that it may take time to get involved at the state or national level. You often have to put in both hard work and time to make contacts and connections. However, for those who are willing, it can be very rewarding.

If you think you may be interested in government cancer programs, a good way to start is by speaking with the person in charge of cancer-related programs at your local health department or hospital. Ask for information about the programs they offer and find out how you can help. To find out about:

  • National programs. Look at the Resources section . If an organization interests you, call, write a letter, or look at their Web site for more information or to request an application. Keep in mind that at this level, they may only work with advocates who have specific experience or a history in advocacy.

  • State cancer programs. Speak to someone who works on cancer in your state health department. Ask for information about their programs and find out how you can help. Or contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-232-4636 or

  • Local cancer programs. Look in your telephone book or go to your city or county’s local Web site. Look for “Departments of Health” or “Health Departments” to get started. You could also call your local hospital or cancer organization.