GLOVERSVILLE — Representatives of Community Cancer Prevention in Action through St. Mary’s Healthcare recently appeared before the Common Council to present cancer prevention strategies and policies the program is seeking to implement locally.
The program through St. Mary’s Healthcare of Amsterdam is funded by a $1.125 million grant awarded in January 2019 through the state Department of Health to introduce cancer prevention strategies to communities in Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady counties over the course of five years.
Ginger Champain, coordinator of Community Cancer Prevention in Action, provided details on the program to the Common Council during the Feb. 11 meeting.
“We would like to introduce these cancer prevention strategies to Fulton County starting with the city of Gloversville,” she said. “We would like to work with public sector and private sector organizations to adopt and strengthen cancer prevention policies and implement [personal care services] changes.”
Champain outlined program initiatives centered primarily on educating the public on methods to prevent cancer, abnormal cells that grow out of control to form masses or tumors.
“Part of our job really is to help people maintain those cells in a normal status, that’s what we would like to do in all of our initiatives,” said Champain.
Stepping up education surrounding the dangers of tanning beds and exposure to the sun without following basic safety practices are two areas of focus for the cancer prevention program.
“According to the World Health Organization, indoor tanning beds are a category one carcinogen that is the equivalent of arsenic,” explained Champain. “Skin cancer is the most common cancer across the board in the United States, one in five will be diagnosed with skin cancer.”
To alert the public to the dangers posed by tanning beds, Community Cancer Prevention in Action will launch an awareness campaign utilizing both traditional media and social media.
To promote sun safety, Champain asked the council to consider allowing program representatives to provide education to participants in the summer recreation program the city plans to begin offering this year.
“It is scientifically proven through the CDC that one significant blistering sunburn in the lifetime of a child will double their chances of skin cancer as an adult,” noted Champain.
Additionally, Champain asked the council to consider establishing a policy requiring that city employees who spend more than five hours a week working outdoors receive sun safety education, similar to a state law enacted in 2006 requiring that state employees working outdoors more than five hours a week receive the education.
If a policy were adopted, Champain said program representatives could provide the education to employees and would provide easy-up outdoor tents to each city department receiving the information.
Another initiative involves Community Cancer Prevention in Action partnering with the Fulton County Public Health Department to rebuild awareness of the human papillomavirus vaccine that protects against some forms of the sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cancer.
“The human papillomavirus virus is a root cause of multiple cancers and this vaccine will prevent cancer,” said Champain. “Have you ever heard the words cancer and prevention in the same sentence?”
The final initiative outlined by Champain involves alerting public employees to a state civil service law that went into effect in March 2018 requiring that all employees of the state, municipalities, counties, school districts, community colleges, public authorities or public benefit corporations receive four hours of paid leave each calendar year for cancer screenings scheduled during normal working hours, without charge to leave credits.
Cancer screening includes physical exams, blood work or other laboratory tests for the detection of cancer. Travel time is included in the four hour paid leave. Absences beyond four hours for cancer screening must be charged to the employee’s leave credits. Employees who undergo cancer screenings outside their regular work hours do so on their own time.
Champain asked the council to consider extending the benefit for city employees to a maximum of eight hours of paid leave for cancer screenings, noting that both Schenectady County and the city of Oswego recently adopted eight hour policies.
“Therefore the employee does not have to make a priority call in which cancer screening they are afforded that year, they can get them all,” said Champain. “I would really think that would be something that you would want to do, valuing your employees.”
Champain left the Common Council members packets of information relating to the Community Cancer Prevention in Action program, asking that the city review and consider the recommended policies in the coming weeks for possible future adoption.