Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We Can Create a Cervical Cancer-Free America


By Jennifer S. Smith, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Kristen Forbes of Noblesville, Indiana, had recently graduated from college when she was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer at age 22. After a yearlong, painful battle, she succumbed to the disease, leaving behind a bright future and grieving family members and friends.

Like most of the 4,000 women in the United States who die of cervical cancer each year, Kristen’s death was preventable. We now have the medical know-how and the tools to stamp out this major cancer once and for all. What we need now, as our country honors National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month this January, is the will among members of the public health community – government officials and policymakers, medical professionals, insurers, women and others – to make it happen.

Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. With widespread use of Pap test screening in the last 50 years, cervical cancer rates have declined significantly, but have leveled to about 12,000 cases each year. This disease should be relatively easy to prevent. We know it’s caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection. Most HPV infections go away on their own, but persistent HPV infections can lead to cell changes that can progress to cervical cancer. Fortunately, with proper treatment, the disease can usually be stopped before cancer develops.

The HPV vaccine is now available and prevents infection from the two types of HPV that are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancers. We have an established screening tool – the Pap test – that identifies cell changes that can signal cervical disease or cancer. We also have newer technology – the HPV test – to help identify women who are at increased risk.

So how can we make sure no more women die of cervical cancer?

First, we need to increase HPV vaccination rates. The HPV vaccine is recommended for routine administration in girls ages 11 and 12, with a “catch up” provision for those up to age 26. Studies show, though, that less than one in two young adolescent girls has received it.

We also need to increase screening rates. At least half of all cervical cancer deaths are due to a lack of screening. Yet about 25 percent of women in the U.S. have not been screened in the past three years. Importantly, women who have been vaccinated still need to be screened to protect against HPV types not targeted by the vaccine.

Also, while the Pap test has led to a dramatic decrease in cervical cancer in the U.S., about one third of cervical cancer deaths are caused by screening errors with the Pap test, a problem that more sensitive HPV DNA testing could address. The HPV test is available, in conjunction with a Pap test, for women ages 30 and older.

Most importantly, we need to make cervical cancer prevention a top national health priority. Public health officials and policymakers should support--and fund--programs to educate women about this disease and enable them to access prevention and treatment services. Medical professionals should educate their patients and provide these services, and insurers should pay for them. Women must take charge of their health and get screened and ensure that their adolescent daughters get vaccinated. All of these groups’ efforts must be coordinated for maximum efficiency and impact.

The elimination of cervical cancer is an eminently achievable goal. To achieve this vision, a new program – Cervical Cancer-Free America ( – is driving state and local prevention programs, and ensuring that successful strategies are shared among the states. The initiative is led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Since the initiative’s launch last year, six states – Alabama, California, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas – have already joined the effort to become “cervical cancer-free.” Major universities and other public health experts are leading the charge in each state, supported by government and other leaders.

The movement to eradicate cervical cancer is gaining momentum in our country. But there is more work to be done. Let’s join hands and work together to ensure that no more women like Kristen Forbes lose their lives to this preventable disease.
Smith is director of Cervical Cancer-Free America.
Copyright (C) 2011 by the American Forum. 1/11

Riane Eisler

By Riane Eisler and Kimberly Otis

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia just asserted for a second time that our Constitution does not protect women against discrimination. That was one of the arguments for passing the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)., and ironically, people of Scalia’s “conservative” persuasion often countered that the ERA was not needed precisely because women are already protected by the 14th Amendment.
Kimberley Otis

Indeed, many Supreme Court cases have invoked the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to strike down laws that blatantly discriminate on the basis of gender. But now we’re told that these cases for four decades were wrong because the Constitution was never intended to protect women. And that’s true if we only look at original intent. The focus of the framers of the Constitution was to protect the life, liberty, and property of white men who owned substantial property. And the focus of the 14th Amendment was implicitly on African-American males.

Of course, the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause uses the term “person,” and in this 21st century it’s bizarre that a jurist would think “person” does not include members of the female half of humanity.

Even more bizarre, in light of the fact that the Constitution was certainly not intended to protect corporations, is that last year Justice Scalia saw nothing wrong in voting that the Constitution gives corporate executives the right to use corporate funds to anonymously make massive donations to elect representatives who favor their financial interests.

But bizarre or not, Mr. Scalia is a Supreme Court Justice, a man with enormous power. And if in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission he and four like-minded men could throw out key provisions of campaign finance laws dating back to

1907 plus two of the high court's own decisions from 1990 and 2003, we must take notice when such a man asserts that women are not constitutionally protected.

Which brings us back to the Equal Rights Amendment, that would clearly add women to the “persons” protected by the Constitution and that failed by only a slim margin in the Reagan era. It passed Congress and was ratified by 35 of the needed 38 states.

Given the current reactionary political climate, it may be argued that getting the ERA through now will be a tough uphill fight. But it’s precisely because of this climate that we must have it.

There are a number of initiatives on the table to finally enact this simple amendment that reads, “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Here are some active websites and links where you can learn more about what you can do to pass the ERA;; You can also find new mobilizations on Facebook and Twitter by searching on ERA.

The time is now. The equality of rights of women -- half our population and our workforce -- must be enshrined in the Constitution once and for all.
Eisler is the author of “The Equal Handbook: What ERA Means for Your Life, Your Rights, and the Future,” “The Chalice and The Blade,” and “The Real Wealth of Nations. Otis is an advocate and former executive director of the National Council of Women’s Organizations and The Sister Fund.
Copyright (C) 2011 by the American Forum. 1/11


By Steve Boyce

Many Kentuckians share a frustration with the lack of legislative will to pass real tax reform which has resulted in a decade of annual revenue shortfalls, cuts in essential programs, one-time stop gap measures and a failure to make investments that will move Kentucky forward.

As a member of the Kentucky Forward Coalition, I have grown impatient with yet another state tax reform study, especially since it’s not clear that the study will be transparent or guided by Kentuckians’ values.

The Kentucky Forward Coalition proposes that any revision of our tax structure -- whether coming from the commission that Sen. Williams has called for, or any another -- begins by establishing a set of principles that benefit all Kentuckians and move us forward. The Kentucky Forward Coalition serves or represents a sizeable portion of the people in our Commonwealth, and these are the principles that we lift up as necessary to create a better Kentucky:

• Revenue solutions should sustain a good quality of life in Kentucky through essential investments in good schools, health care, public safety and other necessary public structures and services.
• Our taxes should be balanced, reasonable and fair, with fiscal responsibilities shared equitably among all citizens and businesses by minimizing taxes on low-income people and bringing more balance to our tax code.
• Our tax structure should be sustainable, with reliably constant sources of revenue that grow along with the economy.

If we use these principles to guide reforms to our tax structure, we will all be in a better position to live up to our potential. Kentuckians are smart, resourceful, helpful and creative. We’d all realize our own potential more often by adequately funding the necessary elements of strong communities. This includes good schools with smaller classes, access to quality health care, police and fire departments that have the resources to protect and serve and water that we know is safe to drink.

A lot of ideas get put under the banner of tax reform. Not all of those ideas adhere to principles that reflect our values. Some would allow us to share in our responsibilities equitably and fairly, while others would knock our tax system further out of balance by shifting responsibility away from wealthy individuals and major corporations and onto working families. Some make it easier to pay for the public investments we need to grow and improve the quality of our lives, while others intend to shrink those necessities and turn Kentucky into a place of greater inequality.

Shifting to a tax system based on sales, instead of income, would turn our already out-of-balance tax system completely upside down. It would shift more responsibility to people who are less able to pay -- those whose wages and income have stagnated over the years. We know this from the studies that have already been done, most recently by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy. This shift would not benefit our economy, and would be harmful to our families. That’s not what Kentuckians deserve.

A sustainable tax structure means a broad base of taxes. That’s because different taxes respond differently to economic changes, and a broad-based tax system helps maintain and grow the revenues needed. Eliminating individual and corporate income taxes radically narrows our tax base and impacts revenue sustainability over time. That, unfortunately, is the goal of some. This will not help us create the commonwealth that we deserve.

Kentuckians want reform. But reform is not just making something different, but making something better. Better for Kentucky means generating revenue to help create the kind of society Kentuckians deserve and want by modernizing our taxes and bringing balance and fairness to our flawed system.

Every Kentuckian has a stake in our taxes and budget, so we deserve to be represented when recommendations are agreed upon. Any study of reform should invite everyone into the conversation by starting with these questions: What kind of communities do we want, and how should we pay for them? The answers to those questions are defined not by experts, but by our values.
Kentucky Forward is a coalition of labor, faith, education, health, and community organizations. Boyce is the Chair of member group, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
Copyright (C) 2011 by the Kentucky Forum. 1/11


By Chris Hartman

Barriers have fallen as President Barack Obama recently signed into law the repeal of the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which has caused the forcible discharge of more than 13,000 of our nation's service members since its 1993 introduction.

We are now witnessing perhaps the most sweeping anti-discrimination reform of our nation's armed forces since President Harry S. Truman's 1948 executive order desegregating our military. We must look to this as a first step on a long path to full freedom and equality in America, but there are still so many left to tread along this journey.

The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will finally allow our brave women and men in uniform to defend their country without having to defend or hide their true identity. This will eliminate their fear of being fired from our nation's largest employer based solely upon who they are.

But this measure will not alleviate that fear for millions of other Americans who worry daily that they will lose their jobs if someone discovers -- or even thinks -- they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Even as this historic repeal becomes law, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would federally prohibit discrimination in employment based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, still languishes in the halls of the U.S. House and is likely to die without discussion before this lame duck session ends.

That law will live in abeyance long after the 111th Congress comes to a close and a more conservative faction enters the Senate. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans will then continue on a path of uncertain second-class citizenry as our legal discrimination endures.

Undeniably, the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will change the national debate on fairness issues for the better, and with hope, it will set a greater precedent opposing prejudice for our young people than ever before. Perhaps this law's repeal will trickle down to the teenagers who mercilessly bully lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children to the point of suicide, and there will be a greater sense of respect, understanding, and acceptance amongst young peers. Perhaps, but in all likelihood, this will not be enough.

Until it’s no longer legal in Kentucky -- or elsewhere in our nation -- to kick someone off a bus or out of a restaurant, deny them a place to live, or fire them from a job based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, there will be no true freedom for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers in America.

I welcome our President's historic pen stroke ending this institutional prejudice that has affected tens of thousands of Americans, but I also hope Congress and the Kentucky State Legislature can take it a step further and offer all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans the same protections our military members will now enjoy.

Bringing an end to all forms of legal prejudice and discrimination in the United States is the only just and fair thing to do. There is no better time to begin the process of peeling away our country's last vestiges of legal discrimination than what we have seen with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Hartman is the director of the Fairness Campaign.
Copyright (C) 2010 by the Kentucky Forum. 1/11


By Mitchell Gold

As a business owner who has created hundreds of jobs over the past two decades, I understand economic policies that build sustainable growth. Yet the billions in tax cuts for the wealthy just signed into law compromise our shared future.

The promise of “trickle down” economics has failed. When recent studies suggest that 1 in 3 working families are near poverty, it defies common sense that some elected officials have prioritized giveaways to the wealthy. This greed and excess is what got us into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. It defies good business and core American values to pass this burden on to increasingly vulnerable working families, and to our children and grandchildren. How much more damage to the middle class can the country endure?

It’s clear that our political leaders need to shift course in order to build a healthy economy. We need to put aside the myths and rationalizations that excuse the unprecedented greed the last decade has witnessed. We need to have a basic sense of decency and focus on policies that benefit us all.

It’s pretty simple: when Main Street consumers are doing better, we all do better. Or, as the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce recently said, “We need customers, not tax breaks.”

I started my business in the difficult 1989 economy and sustained other recessions. I know that it’s the customers that drive economic prosperity. With millions of Americans out of work, giving tax cuts to the wealthiest few is the wrong strategy. At one time I paid more in taxes, because I was making more. This is appropriate, since a strong economy is built upon creating economic gains for all Americans, not just a privileged few.

It takes positive values to build healthy families and communities. When we built our manufacturing plant in North Carolina, we invested in environmentally sustainable practices, built an industry-leading day care center, a health-conscious café, employee gym and responsible health care for our over 600 employees. These were expenses our competitors were not taking on, but we knew that by making up-front investments in our people we would all benefit over the long term.

As a country we have forgotten our own history. Public investments like the GI Bill, the interstate highway system and university research grants have provided the environment where some of the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs had the opportunity to build businesses. That’s what makes America great, not greed.

We must recommit ourselves to the foundation of healthy and prosperous communities where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. The anger that excludes or divides us is not what has made America strong. A healthy economy includes all people and helps build a foundation for public spaces, civil discourse, religious freedom and an environment that sustains creativity, innovation and peace.

We now face urgent economic and environmental challenges that will determine our global competitiveness and quality of life for generations. Patriotism comes from a willingness to share responsibility, to support our shared interests and to invest in creating opportunities for all through education, technology and infrastructure.

Politicians risk too much when they focus on short-term wins at the expense of the real needs and interests of so many Americans who want to work, serve their country and live comfortable lives with their families. We must remember this as we look ahead to comprehensive tax code reform, deficit reduction and smart investments in our common future.

The recent failure of leadership, those who have sided with the wealthy people who fund their re-election campaigns is shameful. They have failed true family values and have not responded quickly to the millions of struggling Americans who have lost their jobs or are just getting by. This threatens our shared prosperity. That’s why I joined hundreds of other business people and tens of thousands of individuals in signing petitions against the high-end tax cuts.

As we enter into this New Year we must commit to a healthy economy, where Main Street Americans have jobs and money to spend. This will take investment, not tax cuts. We must put an end to the greed and excess that got us into this economic crisis. It will require sacrifice from each of us and require historic leadership with integrity. If our political leaders don’t understand that, then it’s time we find some who do.
Gold is co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a $100 million home-furnishings brand he and business partner Bob Williams started in 1989 with an investment of $60,000. He is a member of Wealth For Common Good and founder of Faith In America.
Copyright (C) 2010 by the American Forum. 1/11