If hearing about yet another suicide bombing in Iraq depresses you, and you've stopped listening to the radio or watching the news on TV, you might have missed Sen. Hillary Clinton's announcement on Monday that, if elected, she would set a goal of finding a cure for breast cancer within 10 years.
Clinton said that her administration would provide an annual $300 million per year in research funding to, among other entities, the National Institutes of Health, with the goal of making that agency's breast cancer research budget $1.5 billion annually within 10 years. Here's the summary of Clinton's proposal, taken from her campaign Web site:
"Hillary Clinton appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show today and announced her plan to find a cure for breast cancer within our lifetime. Hillary's plan would provide $300 million a year in increased funding for breast cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.
"In addition to funding research for new treatments, these investments will also go to investigate the cause of breast cancer, including the role that environmental pollutants may have, as well as potential genetic and hereditary links. The plan would also improve access to screenings and treatment by making mammograms more affordable and providing funding for treatment for low-income women. Under Hillary's American Health Choices Plan, all women will have affordable, quality health insurance regardless of employment, marital status, or pre-existing conditions so they get the care and treatment they need."
Clinton's plan would eliminate Medicare co-pays for mammograms-a significant step in light of a recent study showing that the risk of breast cancer is higher in women who have a mammogram co-pay, no matter how small, compared to women whose mammograms are free. And Clinton says she'd create a "Young Women's Breast Cancer Research and Outreach Unit," focused on serving the special needs of young women, both those with breast cancer, and those who care about reducing their risk for the disease.
Campaign rhetoric? Empty promises? I don't think so. Clinton has been a strong supporter of breast cancer research since she entered the White House with Bill in 1992. In fact, in 2005 Senator Clinton was inducted into the National Breast Cancer Coalition's Congressional Hall of Fame for her steady championing of increased breast cancer awareness and research funding.
Breast cancer funding isn't the most important issue facing America. It probably wouldn't even make the top 10, what with global warming, shrinking supplies of fossil fuels, a probable recession, and other storm clouds looming on the horizon, issues that severely impact every one of us. The next President, whoever it is, will be faced with the biggest financial deficit we've ever built up, continuing casualties in Iraq, and gas prices probably heading towards $4/gallon. Breast cancer won't be the top item on anyone's agenda.
Yet, as my husband pointed out to me at the dinner table tonight: Wouldn't it be nice to have a President who actually knows something about breast cancer, and already has a great track record around funding research? As he noted, "I think a woman in the White House would be a lot more in tune with breast cancer, and the need to cure it, than a man."
If you're a Democrat or Independent still on the fence, consider Malcolm Gladwell's thoughts on tipping points. It's often the smallest thing that suddenly becomes a "social epidemic," capable of quickly changing the direction of a society. Maybe, just maybe, breast cancer research funding will be Hillary's campaign tipping point, the edge she needs to capture the White House in November.