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Taking Action to Prevent Cancer  couple-stock photo
The evidence is in – and it is clear. Cancer can be prevented. 

In fact, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research estimate that as much as one-third of all cancers can be prevented.
Here’s how: By eating well, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight.

“Now it is time to move from evidence to action,” says Judy Purcell, Prevention Coordinator with Cancer Care Nova Scotia. “We need to invest in the health of our population as much as we invest in their health care. To prevent cancer, we need this kind of paradigm shift.”

The seeds for that action were sown at two groundbreaking symposia coordinated by CCNS and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The first, Evidence and Policy: Preventing Cancer and Chronic Disease, brought together more than 100 cancer and chronic disease prevention professionals, government  policy analysts, researchers and civil society organizations from across Canada and around the globe. The second, Integrated Action: Imagine the Impact!, was closer to home. Approximately 100 leaders from government, the health sector, the policy field and the community joined forces.

This was an opportunity to look at the findings of two international reports – with a view to how the evidence from these documents can be applied within the Canadian and the Nova Scotia context.

The first report,  Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, released in November 2007 after six years of effort, is the most comprehensive ever published on the evidence linking cancer to diet, physical activity and weight.

The second report, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention – Food, Nutrition and Physical Activity: a Global Perspective, released in February 2009, sets out changes that can be made at all levels of society to reduce the number of cases of cancer and other chronic diseases. Without counting the effects of smoking, the report estimates that a third of the most common cancers are preventable.

Participants reached three fundamental conclusions:

•Our responsibility – each of us – is to advance the health of the population. We are all leaders in this fight. And we all need to be involved including health professionals, many government departments, policy experts, industry, and community groups.

•We need to move beyond evidence. We need to move beyond recommendations. We need action.

•Healthier individuals and healthier society have to become a priority. We need to move from a focus on health care to a focus on health.

“Everyone agreed there is a need for concrete action at the policy level,” says Theresa Marie Underhill, Chief Operating Officer, Cancer Care Nova Scotia. “We need to build on the evidence, successes and lessons learned, to support cancer and chronic disease prevention. We need to work together, across sectors, in an integrated way to be truly effective. And we will.”

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