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Strength in numbers








L-R: Theresa Marie Underhill, Chief Operation Officer, CCNS;
Dr. Stephen Lewis; Dr. Louise Parker, Director, Cancer Research, CCNS;
Dr. Robert Grimshaw, Medical Director, Cervical Cancer Prevention Program, CCNS.

Strength in numbers
Passionate, persistent, engaging, inspirational and pragmatic -- Stephen Lewis has all the attributes of the great humanitarian he is. While his accomplishments are many, he is perhaps best known for his work with the United Nations (UN) which spans more than 20 years, including five years as UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, a cause for which he is still very committed. Even so, Stephen Lewis is lending his voice, his energy and his knowledge to encourage and mobilize the student population and all Canadians to band together and move the agenda for cancer prevention and control forward.

Speaking to an audience of over 200 students, faculty and health providers at Dalhousie University on March 26, 2010 as part of his People versus Cancer speaking tour, Mr. Lewis discussed his rationale for lending his voice on behalf of the Campaign to Control Cancer, while continuing the fight to advance the cause of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

“There is no reason in the world why one’s view can’t expand to encompass other issues,” he said. “Social justice doesn’t work in compartments. It’s all encompassing and I feel very strongly about the issue, and what might be achieved.”

The fact that as many as 50 per cent of cancers can be prevented struck a chord with Mr. Lewis. It was a fact he referred to a number of times as he challenged the audience to press governments to act on what is known about preventing cancer.

“One hundred and seventy-five thousand people in Canada are diagnosed with cancer each year,” he said. “We could cut that in half. It’s just astonishing.”

In terms of prevention, Mr. Lewis said there is much that can be learned from the AIDS movment.

“While there was much success in developing ways to manage and treat AIDS, there was also a great deal of effort on mobilizing people to change behaviours that led to its spread, a focus on prevention that must be applied with just as much vigour to cancer,” he said. “That’s my primary focus.”

As a first step, Mr. Lewis suggested students write the Prime Minister’s Office and make the case for cancer control to be included on the agenda of the G8 /G20 meetings being hosted by Prime Minister Harper in June 2010. Getting cancer on the International agenda also dovetails with Mr. Lewis’s work in the developing world.

“Cancer is spreading terribly in the developing world,” he said. Isn’t it strange that in this panorama of global health that the non-communicable diseases that cause such carnage are everywhere to be found, increasingly in the developing world, compromising life, compromising the future, that they’re not being addressed?”

Mr. Lewis challenged all present to do their part in moving the cancer control agenda forward, such as: engaging municipal and provincial politicians, and hosting community conversations to raise public awareness, and share experiences and perspectives on cancer and cancer control. Throughout his talk he referenced his experiences with the AIDS movement and the strength found in numbers when people came together for a common cause.

Mr. Lewis’s talk was part of Dalhousie Stands Up 2 Cancer, a day of speakers, workshops and panel discussions, sponsored by Dalhousie’s Department of Health and Human Performance in partnership with Go Public: The Campaign to Control Cancer.

The Campaign to Control Cancer (C2CC) is a Canadian coalition of more than 70 cancer organizations dedicated to cutting cancer down to size through knowledge, change and action. Launched in early 2005, the mission of C2CC is to fundamentally transform Canada’s response to cancer from one of fear and insecurity to one of strength and control.