Two years ago, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) met with Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and asked the question that launched a milestone project to elevate melanoma and skin cancer on the agenda for public health: “How can MRA do more in partnership with government health agencies in the fight against skin cancer and melanoma?”
Dr. Howard Koh, Wendy Selig and Dr. Boris Lushniak
With his medical background in oncology and dermatology, Dr. Koh needed no convincing about the importance of this cause given the dangers of skin cancer and the public health imperative for a coordinated national prevention strategy. To catalyze development of a national health agenda in the fight against skin cancer and melanoma, Dr. Koh and MRA convened a meeting of the leaders of all the relevant agencies within the U.S. Public Health Service, including the Office of the Surgeon General, the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Government officials, medical experts, researchers, and thought leaders joined together 22 months ago for this important gathering and an incredible effort of collaboration began.
Fast forward to July 2014: yesterday with MRA’s President & CEO Wendy Selig in the front row, Dr. Koh and Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak, himself a dermatologist, unveiled The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. The Call to Action seeks to engage all levels of government as well as individuals, private sector institutions and organizations in a coordinated, multifaceted effort to prevent skin cancer.
The Call to Action is the most recent and final achievement in Dr. Howard Koh’s five years as a public servant before he returns to the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health. MRA thanks Dr. Koh for his tireless work, leadership and advocacy of disease prevention and is honored to be recognized by him as one of the leading “partners in prevention” to instigate a national public health agenda to fight skin cancer and melanoma.
The Surgeon General has sounded the call for the nation to join together to fight this terrible but preventable cancer. The time for action is now. Join us in the fight against skin cancer and melanoma!
With our office based in Washington, DC, we have numerous opportunities to contribute to efforts aimed at policy-makers urging them to ensure better outcomes for melanoma patients and those at risk. Whether we are advocating for increased NIH funding, participating in meetings on Capitol Hill, or highlighting the need for prevention strategies and innovative new treatments, we are always working toward the day when no one suffers or dies from melanoma.
Here are some highlights from our latest policy initiatives:
- MRA is collaborating with the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and other key stakeholders to engage the Surgeon General’s Office in a Melanoma Public Health strategy via a Call to Action. We are lending our expertise to establish a strong rationale for the many steps that need to be undertaken to defeat melanoma.
- MRA recently became a member of the Public Access to SunScreens (PASS) Coalition, whose mission is to work collaboratively with the FDA, Congress, the White House, health providers, consumer organizations and stakeholders to establish a regulatory pathway for timely pre-market review of new, safe and effective sunscreen ingredients. PASS has proposed legislation, which includes expedited review of the backlog of sunscreen applications and establishes a new process that allows future sunscreen applications to receive a decision within one year of submission. MRA participates in Hill meetings with the PASS Coalition, urging members of Congress to support this legislation.
- In May, the FDA released draft regulations that will require tanning beds and sunlamps to display stronger warning labels, including a recommendation that people under the age of 18 abstain from using these devices. The proposed reclassification moves tanning beds from Class 1 (low risk) to Class 2 (moderate risk) devices. While this is a great first step, MRA plans to continue working with the FDA and other stakeholders to restrict the use of these dangerous devices. MRA will submit comments to the FDA in the coming weeks applauding them for their efforts and encouraging the department to institute additional regulations that will completely restrict minors from the use and purchase of indoor tanning devices.
- MRA is working with the Melanoma Research Foundation to request $10 million for a melanoma research program administered by the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program in 2014. With hundreds of thousands of U.S. Army, National Guard, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine personnel having served in the Middle East over the past decade, where the intensity of sun exposure is great, there is a potential for heightened long-term risk of melanoma incidence and mortality in our military and veteran population. MRA met with Senators on Capitol Hill to seek support for this funding in the Senate Defense Appropriations bill.
Here at MRA, we continue to advocate for policy changes to accelerate progress in the melanoma field. We frequently work with senior policymakers at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and Congress to offer constructive solutions and focus resources and attention on defeating melanoma.
We will keep you updated on any future developments surrounding these issues!