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CANSA’s Advocacy: Changing Legislation and Public Opinion

What is Advocacy?

“Of increasing importance today is the role of many patient organisations in advocacy and patients’ rights. Their effective community services and targeted messages often reach vulnerable individuals such as women and minority groups. In many countries, their advocacy efforts have improved access to quality information, care and services, thereby improving the quality of life for cancer patients and their families.’ (The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC))

An advocacy campaign is a set of targeted actions in support of a cause or issue. It is about promoting an idea for change, getting support and commitment for ideas and actions; and fighting for a change in beliefs, mindset or legislation.

CANSA’s Advocacy

CANSA is dedicated to advocating and lobbying in order to be more effective in fighting against cancer in South Africa. Advocacy is the Watchdog Role of CANSA, as CANSA strives to protect the public and to make the public’s concerns heard.

There are two kinds of advocacy: advocacy geared towards politicians and decision-makers (lobbying) and advocacy geared towards the general public (opinion building).

CANSA has traditionally been more involved in opinion building and influencing behaviour change, such as adopting a balanced lifestyle or going for regular screenings, but has recently become more involved in lobbying for safer products and a safer environment at governmental level.

  • CANSA advocates for all South Africans to live balanced lifestyles to reduce cancer risk and runs awareness campaigns throughout the year
  • CANSA advocates for early detection through screening services and awareness programmes
  • CANSA assists patients in understanding their rights and refers them to CANSA Care Centres where they can receive practical support during treatment: medical equipment hire, assistive devices, wigs, etc
  • CANSA also provides individual counselling, support groups, and the use of CANSA Care Homes to those receiving treatment far from home

CANSA has made advocacy a key priority of the organisation in terms of cancer control, cancer prevention, education, treatment, care and support, including patients’ rights, and training staff and volunteers to become more effective advocates for cancer control in their communities.

Another important tool in advocacy is developing organisational positions on key cancer control issues. These are known as CANSA’s Position Statements – read more…

What has CANSA lobbied for?

  • CANSA was a founding member of the Patient Health Alliance of NGOs (PHANGO), which is made up of various chronic disease and patient NGOs. PHANGO sent two submissions to the Department of Health regarding the draft Health Charter.
  • CANSA helped to launch the Palliative Care Society of South Africa (PCSSA).
  • In terms of the public sector, CANSA encouraged the Department of Health to speed up the treatment of cancer patients at the Johannesburg General Hospital.
  • CANSA also ran a media campaign to warn cancer patients against using Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT).
  • CANSA gave input into the National Cancer Control Policy and presented to Parliament’s Health Portfolio Committee regarding stricter, new, improved Anti-Tobacco Legislation. CANSA played a major role in anti-tobacco legislation to ban advertising of tobacco products, sponsorsorship by tobacco companies and smoking in public places. CANSA was awarded the 2009 World No Tobacco Day Achievement Award by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in recognition of CANSA’s accomplishments in the fight against tobacco use in South Africa.
  • CANSA notified the Western Cape Department of Health when George Hospital closed its oncology wing in May 2007, resulting in this decision being reversed. Oncology staff were deployed to the hospital within two months, enabling patients from the surrounding regions to access cancer treatment again.
  • Contribution to the update of the National Cancer Control Programme for the Department of Health, which included the recommendation to have mandatory registration of the disease.
  • 2011: CANSA lobbied for support of its World Cancer Declaration Petition (to bring the growing international cancer crisis to the attention of world leaders) and No-Sunbed Petition (CANSA presented this to the National Department of Health).

How has CANSA’s Research Advocacy made a Difference

CANSA’s Research Advocacy helps forge a bridge between research and cancer control. The process of advocacy and lobbying stretches from the research laboratory and clinic to Parliament, where laws to fight cancer are passed. Below are examples of successful cancer Research Advocacy in South Africa in which CANSA and scientists supported by the organisation played a significant role:

  • Compulsory vaccination of every baby against Hepatitis B virus – the main cause of liver cancer.
  • Legislation for the fortification of maize meal with essential vitamins and trace elements that could help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
  • Strict safety laws controlling cancer causing chemicals (carcinogens).
  • An affordable human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine that could eradicate cervical cancer.
  • Compulsory labelling regarding the amount of trans-fatty acids contained in food. These artificial fats have been linked to the increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • Better sunscreen to prevent melanoma.
  • More research to establish the causes of breast and prostate cancer.
  • Since 2008, CANSA has called on the public and Government to protect children against harmful chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) in toys and baby bottles. This has contributed towards the new regulation by the Department of Health to ban the manufacture, sale and import of polycarbonate baby bottles in South Africa, published for comment during May 2011 (not yet gazetted).
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