Several Leading Cancer Organizations Urge US to Reconsider Withdrawing from the World Health Organization

July 22, 2020

Patients with cancer have been encouraged to reach out to legislators and share their personal stories and advocate for why they think continued funding is important to further cancer research.

Leading cancer organizations and members of Congress have crafted a letter to the White House advocating that the United States remain in the World Health Organization (WHO).

Earlier this month, President Donald J. Trump stated that the U.S. will withdraw from WHO. The country’s official exit from the Switzerland-based organization will go into effect next July.

However, leaders in the oncology space are hoping that the resignation is canceled before then, as they say that leaving WHO could have dire consequences for cancer care — and public health in general – both in the U.S. and worldwide.

International Collaboration Can Decrease Cancer Deaths

“Patients in every region of the world deserve to have access to treatment plans to utilize the global best practices and awareness data. WHO funding in programs are also essential to reduce the global cancer burden — especially cervical cancer and pediatric cancers – and also other cancer-control activities as well,” Dr. Robert W. Carlson, CEO of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), said in an interview with CURE®’s sister publication, Oncology Nursing News®.

“The U.S. government has historically provided about 20% of WHO funding, and these programs would severely be impacted by the withdrawal of that funding,” Carlson said.

The NCCN is one of several cancer organizations involved in the letter urging the president to reconsider withdrawing from WHO. The other organizations were:

  • The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR);
  • The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network;
  • The American Society of Hematology (ASH);
  • The American Society for Radiation Oncology;
  • The Association for Clinical Oncology;
  • The Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses;
  • CancerCare, and
  • The Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide, Carlson said, and as America’s population continues to age, fatalities from the disease will only continue to increase — especially without the development of new therapies that often occur with international collaboration through WHO. The reality, according to Carlson, is that other countries may fare even worse than the U.S.

“Collaboration is really crucial in order to control both the high death rates in the United States, and especially in the low- and middle-income countries,” Carlson said.

Put Politics Aside for Public Health

“Public health issues like cancer should unify the global community … We believe that the best way for the U.S. to maintain influence over WHO and to benefit from its programs is to be an active member,” Carlson said.

Earlier in 2020, a bipartisan act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives supporting the role of the U.S. in WHO.

Congressman Michael McCaul — a republican from Texas – sponsored the Global Hope Act, which was cosponsored by 20 bipartisan representatives that emphasized, “the United States should work to support the goals of the World Health Organization Initiative for Childhood Cancer, helping increase survival rates for children with cancer.”

Patients Can Get Involved

Carlson encouraged patients with cancer to become involved and voice their support for the U.S. to remain in the WHO.

“I would encourage patients to tell their stories and why they think funding is important to have,” Carlson said. “One thing I think is true in advocacy — especially at the federal level – is that patient stories can have an impact on legislation. Individual patient stories are very powerful.”

A version of this story originally appeared on Oncology Nursing News as “Cancer Organizations Advocate for US to Remain in the World Health Organization.”


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