by Kathleen O’Neil and Kristen Pugh
Recent talks among City of Hope representatives and local political officials have led to a new health-related bill introduced in the state assembly.
The health policy roundtable, held in December at City of Hope, included San Gabriel Valley political leaders as well as the governor’s health representative. Co-hosted by California Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, the meeting brought together officials and physicians to discuss how to turn medical knowledge into practical legislation.
Based on what he learned during the discussion, Assemblymember Ed Hernandez co-sponsored legislation this month that would require girls entering sixth grade in California schools to receive a vaccine against human papilloma viruses, which cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers and most genital warts. During the meeting, Stephen Forman, M.D., the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, had told the group that the anti-cancer vaccine was available, but no plans existed to get it to the community.
Legislators at the roundtable said they are facing many pressing health-related issues, including stem cell research, cancer prevention, diabetes, health disparities and caring for the uninsured.
Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer of City of Hope, and Romero called on participants to address gaps in health delivery, while State Assemblymember Anthony Portantino suggested legislation to improve access to umbilical-cord blood banks. Hernandez, meanwhile, stressed action to address the plight of the uninsured.
Duarte Mayor Lois Gaston pleaded with the group to promote education about cancer, especially among African-Americans and Latinos. “I have been to three funerals of men who died of cancer in the past two weeks. I don’t think they know of the risks,” she said.
Herb Schultz, senior health advisor to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, asked for input on the governor’s comprehensive health policy proposal, which includes prevention and health promotion, medical coverage for all Californians and measures to ensure affordability and cost containment. The plan aims to create more transparency on medical costs and to reduce medical errors to improve patient safety.
In turn, Kimlin Ashing-Giwa, Ph.D., director of the Center of Community Alliance for Research and Education at City of Hope, told the group about the center’s culturally relevant community events to educate groups about diet and lifestyle. Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Department of Clinical Cancer Genetics, discussed the benefits of genetic testing for cancer, particularly when results may benefit other family members who might not have otherwise known they were at higher risk. However, he noted, MediCal and some private insurance do not cover the testing.
Friedman applauded the meeting and invited Romero to host another health policy discussion in the spring.
Weeks after the meeting, Schultz said the forum is still paying off. Noted Schultz: “I have continued traveling up and down the state on behalf of Gov. Schwarzenegger and his comprehensive Health Care Reform Initiative. I often share some of the very important and relevant information I learned during my visit to City of Hope.”
Other City of Hope participants included Ted Krontiris, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of medical and scientific affairs and director of the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Michael Rabin, vice president of managed care, and Kathleen Kane, executive vice president of development and external affairs.