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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
November 15, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael or Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


 
New Jersey Receives Recognition for Cancer Control Activities DHSS Releases Cancer Cluster Task Force Report


 

          TRENTONNew Jersey has made major advances in the fight against cancer again this year.  The state received federal recognition as a Comprehensive Cancer Control state and a $308,000 grant to help carry out the state’s blueprint to control cancer over the next five years, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. announced today.  The Commissioner also today released the report of the Task Force on Cancer Clusters in New Jersey.

          “Because of Governor James E. McGreevey’s commitment to make our state a national leader in the fight against cancer, New Jersey already has an excellent cancer control plan and has invested millions in implementing it statewide,” Commissioner Lacy said.  “This grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes New Jersey’s achievement and supports our ongoing efforts.”

          In the last three years, New Jersey has invested $105 million in the fight against cancer, including more than $6 million to implement the state’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan which was created in 2003.  Through cancer control planning, cancer activities are better integrated and coordinated across the state, reducing duplication and improving services both locally and statewide. 

          Working with staff in each county, the Department of Health and Senior Services has conducted a statewide needs assessment and is creating a publicly accessible database of all cancer-related programs and resources in New Jersey.   The database will help cancer patients and their families find the resources and support services they need locally.  CDC funding will be used to help make information available to consumers, through the Internet, libraries and other sources.

          Based on the statewide needs assessment, the department is also preparing reports on each county describing population, cancer burden, gaps in services and recommended next steps.

          “We are now taking our work to the county level, where local coalitions can undertake projects tailored to that county’s needs,” said Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., state epidemiologist and senior assistant commissioner.  “This could include, for example, creating outreach programs to educate particular ethnic groups about the importance of cancer screening.”  New Jersey has just made more than $600,000 in grant funding available for counties to hire coordinators who will work with local coalitions. 

          Commissioner Lacy created the Task Force on Cancer Clusters in New Jersey by Executive Order in 2003.  He charged the group with examining the process state and local health officials use to assess community concerns about cancer rates, and making recommendations for needed improvements.

          As part of its work, the task force sponsored two conferences --  one on best practices in cancer cluster investigation and one on communicating cancer risk to concerned communities -- that featured presentations by national experts.

          Chaired by Dr. Bresnitz, the 14-member task force included cancer activists, public health and environmental officials, and academic experts in environmental and occupational health. 

          The report made 15 recommendations in four areas: cancer data and the State Cancer Registry, responding to suspected cancer clusters, cancer cluster surveillance, and the role of various agencies involved in the issue. 

          “Educating communities about cancer and providing high-quality cancer data are central to our departmental mission.  The task force has issued a number of important recommendations for improvement in these areas, many of which are well underway,” Commissioner Lacy said. 

          Recognizing the importance of risk communication, the task force set aside funds for New Jersey researchers to study better ways to communicate cancer risk to concerned communities. 

          “This grant funding will support innovative research that can improve the ways we communicate about cancer and help the public better understand cancer risks and the investigation of suspected cancer clusters,” Dr. Bresnitz said.

          Because it is a vital resource for cancer cluster investigations, the State Cancer Registry must continue to be adequately funded so that its data can continue to be accurate and timely, the task force recommended.  The current state budget devotes $1.5 million to the Registry, which has continued to receive Gold Certification status annually from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

          The department recently released its cancer statistics for 2002, the most recent year for complete data.  Maps of county cancer incidence and mortality rates will soon be available to the public on the department’s website.  Both the 2002 cancer data and the task force report may be viewed at http://nj.gov/health/cancer/statistics.htm.

          In addition, the department has already expanded the amount of data collected through the New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, which is part of the CDC’s nationwide survey monitoring health-related behaviors and chronic conditions.  This will produce meaningful information on a county’s smoking rates, which can be useful to researchers trying to understand more completely the occurrence of cancer at the local level.

          The department is also preparing a “Citizens’ Guide to Cancer Clusters in New Jersey” to answer questions about cancer and how potential clusters are assessed.

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