WASHINGTON – Rhode Island and Massachusetts performed better than most but still fell short on legislative policies to prevent and fight cancer in a report released Thursday by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Of 10 legislative priority areas, Rhode Island and Massachusetts met the ACS CAN benchmarks in six categories. Only Illinois performed as well, also meeting six benchmarks, while no state met more than six.
The study, called “How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality,” identified specific policy actions state legislatures can take to fight various types of cancer. This is the 11th annual survey.
“States can save more lives and health care dollars when they enact evidence-based policies to encourage prevention, guarantee access to affordable health care, curb tobacco use and focus on patients’ quality of life,” said John R. Seffrin, CEO of ACS CAN, in a statement. “State lawmakers have countless new opportunities to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer, a disease that still kills 1,500 people in this country every day.”
The report uses a color-coded system to grade state policies, with green denoting the benchmark, yellow indicating progress toward the benchmark and red showing the state fell short.
Rhode Island and Massachusetts both earned green ratings in three tobacco regulation categories: cigarette taxes above the national average, cigarette tax increases over the last six years and smoke-free laws in workplaces, restaurants and bars.
Neither state met the ACS CAN benchmark for spending on tobacco prevention, landing them in the red category. Rhode Island spent $400,000 on tobacco prevention in fiscal 2012 according to the report, short of ACS CAN’s recommended $15.2 million. Massachusetts spent $4.2 million compared to a recommended $90 million.
Rhode Island and Massachusetts both earned a red rating for the physical education requirement benchmark as well, meaning they require fewer than 90 minutes per week or have no physical education requirement for school children at all.
Massachusetts fell into the red category for indoor tanning bed restrictions for minors. The state requires parental accompaniment for children under 14 to tan and parental permission for ages 14-17.
Rhode Island performed better on indoor tanning, reaching the middle yellow category for its requirement that minors bring a signed parental permission slip for every two visits.
ACS CAN calls for a full ban on indoor tanning for minors.
Massachusetts rated yellow for breast and cervical cancer screenings, measured by the percentage of CDC funding for screening the uninsured the state appropriated. The Bay State appropriated 92 percent of the CDC award. Rhode Island ranked in the red category for appropriating 5 percent.
Both states rated green in the remaining three categories. They earned A grades for pain control and will participate fully in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Rhode Island and Massachusetts were two of only three states, along with Maryland, to earn top marks for palliative care, which focuses on providing relief for the symptoms, pain and stress of serious illness.