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Beyond Empowerment to Results

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:21pm

"Controversy. Conflict. Words that I have heard over and over again. I have heard that women avoid confrontation and conflict. That they historically have been quiet, conforming, polite. That certainly has not been my experience with the National Breast Cancer Coalition and its network of activists across the country. These women embrace controversy and conflict, recognizing that going along with the way things are will not change the statistics about breast cancer."
Those words are from Fran Visco, President of the National Breast Cancer Coalition in her post this evening at on about how Ms. Visco has mobilized patients, caregivers and researchers in the organization's grant making process -- resulting in some of the most important breakthroughs in breast cancer research today.
"In 1991, many breast cancer groups decided to band together and launch a political movement - the National Breast Cancer Coalition - to make breast cancer a national priority and to make certain the right policies were in place to address the important issues surrounding this disease.
And, while it was controversial, it was the right thing to do. In fact, one of our first campaigns was Do the Write Thing - delivering more than 600,000 letters to the President and Congress, calling for significantly increased federal funding for breast cancer research. In response, funding went up by $50 million. The following year, NBCC launched its $300 Million More! Campaign and was invited by a Senate Committee to testify on the issue."

"It was controversial, both the campaign and the testimony. And it was 1992, the vaunted "Year of the Woman" (as though we only got one year!) But we were making more and more progress, bringing together more and more voices across the country, some lawmakers were now beginning to understand the depth of the problem, and that year, thanks to our efforts, they funded the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Peer Reviewed Research Program. Federal funding immediately increased from $90 million to more than $400 million.

Fifteen years later, with annual lobbying on our part to make it happen, this unique program has brought two billion dollars in federal funding and attracted more than 26,500 research proposals. The result: some of the most important breakthroughs in breast cancer research.
And, breast cancer consumer activists -- women and men who are living with breast cancer and can speak from first-hand experience - play an equal role with scientists on the panels deciding which grants to fund."
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