Malamalamaaga o le Kanesa

One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Three in four families will care for a family member with cancer.

This means that if you are sitting in a room with two people, one of you will be diagnosed with cancer in your lifetimes. This means that if four families are sitting in church, at a football game, driving to work, three of those four families will be taking care of a cancer patient at some point in their lives. This means that you, reader, have a very good chance of being a cancer survivor.

Today, there are more than 10 million people living with cancer in the United States alone. These individuals are ‘survivors’. Survivorship begins at the moment of diagnosis and continues through the rest of his or her lifetime. Additionally, every person affected by the cancer diagnosis of a family member and loved one is a survivor. This is because cancer significantly changes the lives of those diagnosed, those who provide care, and those who mourn the loss of a cancer patient.

From interviews with American Samoan cancer survivors, the N.C.I. funded Community Cancer Network, has identified key challenges faced by cancer survivors in the Territory that are unique to our island and add to the burden of fighting this disease:

Lack of comprehensive cancer treatment on-island

Lack of an oncologist on-island

Lack of available, portable government funded health insurance

Lack of a patient navigation system through which patients find and access appropriate cancer care in a timely manner

Lack of consistent, timely, available pain management and palliative care

Lack of end of life care

American Samoa is LACKING these critical components to healthcare, which would measurably improve the chance of survival and quality of life for cancer patients. Now, imagine YOU are one of three people sitting in the room of a doctor’s office waiting for a test result. The statistics show that one of you will receive a diagnosis of cancer. Perhaps not in that moment - not with this particular test - but the reality is, there is a very high chance that someday soon it will be YOU.

This is an election year and YOU can help ensure that future cancer patients will have the healthcare and assistance needed to survive the diagnosis. YOU can make a difference in the lives of those who became those individuals, sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for a result. YOU can make a difference in the lives of cancer patients who are facing up to the challenge of living through cancer. How? By bringing to the attention of our gubernatorial candidates the fact that cancer is a huge challenge in American Samoa, one that deserves the attention of our government, healthcare, and community decision makers. There are medical needs which must be addressed now because more people are diagnosed in American Samoa than previous statistics have shown. Cancer must be made a top priority issue.

We sometimes forget, but our political leaders are in fact public servants. They are tasked with addressing the issues that their constituents feel are of the greatest importance. Your governor is here to serve you, American Samoa. If quality, timely, consistent healthcare is important to you then it should be important to whomever you vote for in November. Don’t waste your vote by ignoring the issues and simply voting for a campaign slogan or family friend.

While your personal health is your personal responsibility, it is an obligation of leadership to ensure you have the tools and resources to be healthy. So, healthcare issues are not confined to the hospital. Vote for someone who will approach the issues holistically. For example, the environment is an important component of healthcare. A clean environment free of diseased dogs, trash, over grown roadsides and unlit streets will make it possible for people to walk, run, and bike to stay active and healthy. An environment that has clean parks with clean bathrooms, safe hiking trails, pedestrian friendly sidewalks, and roads with good drainage will encourage people to get outside for exercise. So a candidate for governor should have a realistic plan to improve the environment in these ways in an effort to reduce obesity and all of the diseases and healthcare problems that the lack of physical activity can create.

Finally, get involved: listen to the candidates, find out what they think about healthcare, find out what their plans are, if any, for improving our local environment. If you find a candidate willing to listen, encourage that person to participate in a public debate with other candidates. Debates allow voters to hear what the candidates stand for, what their plans are, how they defend their stance on issues, and how they plan to address the issues that are important to you once they’re in office. It’s an opportunity for candidates to let the voters know who they are.

Healthcare issues are not confined to the hospital or your living room. Health is affected by many variables including your environment and the politics which run your government. This election year vote for someone who has the resolve to learn the issues and the commitment to dedicate necessary resources to fix them.


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