The PROSTATE Act of 2011: a national, “budget neutral” initiative

The Prostate Research, Outreach, Screening, Testing, Access and Treatment Effectiveness (PROSTATE) Act of 2011 (H.R. 2159), was re-introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives and companion legislation (S. 1190) was re-introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Several different organizations have worked closely with the sponsors of this legislation, which was initially conceived by the American Urological Association, but has (in the view of The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink) benefited from suggestions and recommendations from several members of the Prostate Cancer Roundtable, specifically including the Prostate Cancer Foundation, ZERO — The Project to End Prostate Cancer, the Men’s Health Network, Malecare, and the Prostate Health Education Network. Prostate Cancer International (the parent of The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink) has also expressed support for this legislation.

The PROSTATE Act has been designed to achieve the following goals:

  • Establishment of an Interagency Prostate Cancer Coordination and Education Task Force composed of agencies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and led by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which will identify and catalog prostate cancer activities across these agencies; develop a strategy to improve the research portfolio; eliminate duplication between agencies; identify best practices; expand collaboration; increase patient and medical community participation; and develop a coordinated message related to awareness of and treatment for prostate cancer.
  • Encouragement of the VA, DoD and HHS to coordinate and intensify prostate cancer research, including improvements or alternatives to the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and additional tests to distinguish indolent from aggressive disease; advance the understanding of the etiology of the disease; establish clinical registries for prostate cancer; and assess appropriate imaging modalities.
  • Establishment of a grant program to build upon existing knowledge gained from comparative effectiveness research, and recognize and address the racial and ethnic disparities in the incidence and mortality rates of prostate cancer.
  • Establishment of 4-year-long telehealth pilot projects in a variety of geographic areas, including rural areas, that contain high proportions of medically underserved populations. Such projects will promote efficient use of specialist care through better coordination of primary care and physician extender teams in underserved areas and more effectively employ tumor boards to better counsel patients.
  • Development of a coordinated national education campaign to align messages to the public concerning prostate cancer screening, diagnosis and cancer. The national campaign will be designed to ensure that appropriate materials are readily available in communities with racial disparities in the incidence and mortality of prostate cancer.

The reasoning behind this legislation is that — while significant national resources have been focused on prostate cancer — there has been a real lack of coordination between the various federal agencies involved and responsible for implementation of the research and education programs. Better coordination and a more integrated approach to the problems associated with prostate cancer ought to be able to actively encourage the translation of research into practice, to identify and ensure implementation of  best practices, and gradually move us toward more effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate cancer.

Another important aspect of this legislation is that (at least in theory) it costs the U.S. taxpayer absolutely nothing. All it does is require the various agencies to work closely together to apply some of the funds already available to the specific, identified objectives. Since the legislation is “budget neutral,” there is reason to believe that Congress might actually be willing to approve this legislation. Despite the fact that Congress is severely divided over many issues, this legislation potentially allows both political parties to be able to point toward their ability to work together and pass legislation that is in the best interests of the American people as a whole.

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink commends Representatives Edolphus Towns and Paul Broun, who have worked hard to introduce this legislation in the House of Representatives, as well as their colleagues Senators Jon Tester and Roy Blunt, who have sponsored the companion legislation in the Senate.

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