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Cancer – A Focus for Chronic Disease Management

Two years ago the Pictou County Health Authority established a special committee to look at the the implications and coordination of chronic disease in their community. This year the committee will focus its attention on  a disease not typically thought of as a chronic disease – cancer.  More often, chronic disease is thought of as diabetes, heart disease or others. However, cancer, because of the successes in early detection and improved drugs and management, has become a chronic disease. Pictou County Health Authority recognizes this and will be focusing on cancer services, gaps, and opportunities in their district.

“The perception of cancer as a chronic disease is relatively new. It’s often seen as a disease you can do nothing about, but that is not always the case,” says Jennifer McCarron, Primary Health Care Manager, Pictou County Health Authority.

The first of two workshops looked at the options and opportunities for enhancing cancer services, programs, care and awareness. A second workshop is planned for later this fall.  “We are coming together to identify needs in the community and to set our priorities for action,” says Cathie Watson, Manager, Cancer Care Support Services with the Pictou County Health Authority. 

The Chronic Disease Prevention and Management Committee, which includes representatives from the health authority and the community, was established in 2007 to look at what was currently happening in the district with respect to chronic disease and how the landscape could be improved.  “We want to coordinate activities across all areas of care,” explains Jennifer. “It’s a pretty achronicmanagementmbitious undertaking.”

In the first year the committee looked broadly at the issue of chronic disease and how services and awareness broadly could be enhanced in their area. The following year the focus was narrowed to smoking cessation.

“The attention has now turned to cancer because

L-R: Patrick Mullally and Jennifer McCarron, members of the Chronic Disease Prevention Management Committee
of its significant impact on our community,” says Cathie. “The challenge is to get broad involvement from the district health authority and from the community to find and implement solutions.”

Involvement may come from surprising corners, such as the breastfeeding program. The World Cancer Research Fund has shown scientifically that breastfeeding can help prevent cancer. “For many people, this is a new way of thinking,” notes Cathie.
Engagement of the community, health care professionals, educators, and others is critical. “Cancer touches us all,” says McCarron.