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Lisa Priest took your questions

Continued from Page 2

Lisa Priest: Hello Seana, I have heard of Cottage Dreams and know of one breast cancer patient who benefited tremendously from it. Often when the cancer treatment ends, we forget all the other things patients require, particularly respite care and ways to cope as they embark on their new journey of "cancer survivor."

David Cyr, Oakville: Hello Lisa, How specifically do you think this initiative will enhance cancer care in Canada? How will the average person experience the benefits?

Lisa Priest: That's a very good question, David, because for many people a strategy for cancer control may sound like another, arm's length government agency. But one problem we have in cancer care in Canada today is that cancer experts, advocates and administrators have incredible knowledge that they can't put into place. For example, screening for colorectal cancer screening can reduce the death rate by 15 to 33 per cent but no province has embarked on such program. This strategy would help address that. As well, we have more than a dozen bodies across the count that duplicate the work of scientifically evaluating drugs. A strategy could address this by encouraging one national body to do the work and disseminate it to the provinces to help erase this unequal access to crucial cancer drugs. Those are just two examples but there are many more.

Robert Fisher, Canada: In Canada health care is administered (or it's supposed to be anyway) at the provincial level. Imposing another form of national oversight or national regulation is not the answer. The entire concept of national standards and national regulation has to be scrapped. The provinces need to be given more control and authority for the delivery of health services. Broad spectrum guidelines can be set up at a national level but beyond those broad guidelines, the provinces need to be free to do what they need to do in their respective areas.

Lisa Priest: Hello Robert, As long as the provinces are getting billions in funding for health care, they have to fulfill requirements. If the provinces are going to take $41-billion in a health accord, including $5.5-billion to reduce wait times, they have to give something back to the patients, which includes meeting benchmarks for timely care as set out in the five priority areas, of which one is radiation treatment for cancer patients. Probably, the biggest role of the federal government in health care is one of leadership. The issue many have with the provinces is that there is not enough transparency on where those health dollars go.

Rasha Mourtada, globeandmail.com: Thanks, Lisa, for coming online today to answer globeandmail.com reader questions. Are there any last thoughts you'd like to leave us with -- relating to your series or to today's news?

Lisa Priest: Thanks so much for including me in this discussion, Rasha. I think today, for those in the cancer community, be they doctors who provide the care, patients who receive it, or advocacy groups pushing for screening programs, it is a very good day. The federal government's announcement today of the creation of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, which will operate at arm's length, is giving people hope that the prevention, early detection and best treatment for all cancer patients, regardless of where they may live, may not be so far off, after all.

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