Vermont, New York & New Hampshire measure up well in fight against cancer

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How is our region doing when it comes to safeguarding public health?

A national nonprofit group has some answers, especially when it comes to cancer treatment and prevention.

Vermont received the top grade in five of eight areas measured by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s scorecard, ‘How Do You Measure Up?’

The state’s strengths include expanded Medicaid, which improved access to health care for thousands of families. The report also noted laws that prohibit strong indoor tanning for minors, model policies for pain prevention and an excise tax on tobacco products.

This year’s new Tobacco 21 law, which taxes e-cigarettes at the same rate as other tobacco products, and prohibitions against online sales, was cited as well.

“We know if you make a product more expensive, particularly a tobacco product more expensive, research shows less people will use it,”said Jennifer Costa of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network . “Certainly it’s a cost barrier for kids.”

There are three areas where Vermont is making progress but could do better — access to palliative care for cancer patients and their families, Medicaid coverage of programs to help people quit tobacco and state tobacco prevention funding.

“We have tens of millions of dollars coming into the state between tobacco settlement money and excise taxes, yet we only spend $3.8 million on prevention,” Costa said. “The CDC recommends spending over $8 million. Investing in tobacco prevention will save us tenfold in the years to come in health care savings.”

Elsewhere in our region, New York and New Hampshire each have top marks in four of the eight areas.

However, they each get very poor grades for tobacco prevention funding. The Empire State only spends about one-fifth of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend, and the Granite State checks in at less than 1% of the CDC’s recommended level.

You can read the full report and state scorecards here.

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