Cancer Organizations Advocate for US to Remain in the World Health Organization


Strides in public health “shouldn’t carry passports,” NCCN CEO Robert W. Carlson, MD, said.

Leading cancer organizations and members of Congress recently banned together to craft a letter to the White House advocating that the United States remain in the World Health Organization (WHO).

Earlier this month, President Donald J. Trump stated that the US will withdraw from WHO. The country’s official exit from the Switzerland-based organization will go into effect next July.

However, leaders in the oncology space are hoping that the resignation is canceled before then, as they say that leaving WHO could have dire consequences for cancer care — and public health in general – both in the US and worldwide.

International Collaboration Can Decrease Cancer Deaths

“Patients in every region of the world deserve to have access to treatment plans to utilize the global best practices and awareness data. WHO funding in programs are also essential to reduce the global cancer burden — especially cervical cancer and pediatric cancers – and also other cancer-control activities as well,” Robert W. Carlson, MD, CEO of the NCCN said in an interview with Oncology Nursing News.

“The US government has historically provided about 20% of WHO funding, and these programs would severely be impacted by the withdrawal of that funding,” Carlson said.

The NCCN is one of the many cancer organizations involved in the letter urging the president to reconsider withdrawing from WHO. The other organizations were:

  • The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
  • The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
  • The American Society of Hematology (ASH)
  • The American Society for Radiation Oncology
  • The Association for Clinical Oncology
  • The Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses
  • CancerCare
  • The Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide, Carlson said, and with America’s aging population, fatalities from the disease will only continue to increase — especially without the development of new therapies that happens, in part, thanks to international collaboration through WHO. And other countries can fare even worse than the US.

“Collaboration is really crucial in order to control both the high death rates in the United States, and especially in the low- and middle-income countries,” Carlson said.

Put Politics Aside for Public Health

“Public health issues like cancer should unify the global community … We believe that the best way for the US to maintain influence over WHO and to benefit from its programs is to be an active member,” Carlson said.

Earlier in the year, a bipartisan act was passed by the US House of Representatives supporting the role of the US in WHO.

Congressman Michael McCaul — a republican from Texas – sponsored the Global Hope Act, which was cosponsored by 20 bipartisan representatives that emphasized, ““the United States should work to support the goals of the World Health Organization Initiative for Childhood Cancer, helping increase survival rates for children with cancer.”

Nurses Can Get Involved

Nurses and other health care workers can also get involved in voicing their support for the US to stay in WHO.

“We think it will be very critical for cancer care providers, patients, advocates, and so forth to let their voices be known among those political positions and in the federal government,” Calrson said. “We believe in the value of being an active participant.”

Carlson said that nurses should reach out to their local representatives, or join together with other providers and patients to craft a letter and send to Congress.

“The bottom line here is that the achievements of science, technology, and discovery should extend beyond borders,” Carlson said. “Those achievements don’t carry passports.”

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