UAMS Experts Brief Legislators on Arkansas’ Cancer Burden

By todd

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas legislators gathered today on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds to hear the latest evidence about the cancer burden in Arkansas from physicians and researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and community partners across the state.


The forum focused on the prevalence of colorectal cancer in the state and was the first of a series sponsored by the Arkansas Cancer Community Network (AR-CCN), a program of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center’s (ACRC) Cancer Control Department at UAMS. Each forum will address a different set of policy issues regarding cancer prevention and control.


The briefing was presented by Sen. Jack Critcher of Batesville, Rep. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock and Rep. Jay Bradford of White Hall. Presenters included:


·        Ronda S. Henry-Tillman, M.D., director of the UAMS Cancer Control Department and principal investigator of the AR-CCN

·        Paul Greene, Ph.D., professor in the UAMS Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the UAMS College of Public Health

·        Glen Mays, Ph.D., M.P.H., vice chairman and associate professor of health policy and management at the UAMS College of Public Health

·        Alonzo Williams Sr., M.D., of the Arkansas Diagnostic Center

·        Tina Gill of the Arkansas Cancer Coalition


“The focus of the cancer briefing series is to provide state and local policymakers with the latest objective, scientific evidence about the cancer burden in Arkansas,” Henry-Tillman said. The AR-CCN project is funded by the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities. “We want to provide legislators with specific strategies for reducing the cancer burden and cancer-related disparities in the state.”  


Legislators at the briefing received an update on the status of the Colorectal Cancer Act of 2005. Approved by the Arkansas legislature, the act provides $1 million for UAMS to set up a two-year demonstration project to provide colorectal cancer screenings in Arkansas. The project is overseen by the ACRC Cancer Control Department and College of Public Health, both at UAMS.


The plan to increase the screening rate is being implemented at 10 primary care practices, with two in each of Arkansas’ public health regions, Henry-Tillman said. Surveys of physicians and community residents will help access screening practices and rates.


The new law dovetails with a $4.2 million, five-year National Cancer Institute Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities grant awarded to Henry-Tillman in 2005. The grant is to develop research, education and policy interventions to reduce cancer health disparities in minority and underserved communities.


The Arkansas Cancer Community Networks policy model provides a framework for evaluating and improving the colorectal cancer law, Henry-Tillman said. The research also provides evidence-based information for state and local policymakers trying to decide the best ways to reduce other cancer disparities in Arkansas.


The American Cancer Society anticipates 1,670 new cases of colorectal cancer in Arkansas in 2006. About 620 Arkansans are expected to die from the disease this year.


Age, family history and diet are key factors in the development of colorectal cancer. Regular screening through tests such a colonoscopy provide the best opportunity to detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stage, when successful treatment is often possible.


Partners actively involved in the planning and implementation of the cancer briefing series are the American Cancer Society; the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Health; the Arkansas Cancer Coalition; the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation; and the UAMS Arkansas Cancer Research Center.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with almost 9,000 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.