Building the Future: BCA’s Strategic Priorities

Throughout 2007 Breast Cancer Action’s dedicated staff and board members contemplated the future of the breast cancer movement and our role in that future. The result of this intensive year of investigation is a 5-year strategic plan that will guide and focus BCA’s work.

In developing this plan, BCA has re-committed itself to its role as the watchdog of the breast cancer movement. We pledge to continue to encourage our members to both ask tough questions and to understand the connections between what they can do personally and the social changes that are needed to end the breast cancer epidemic.

Our plan goes beyond the notion of “the Cure,” and tackles the most pressing issues that must be addressed for real change to happen. By “Challenging Assumptions” and “Inspiring Change”, we are shaping the future of what happens in all the important aspects of breast cancer. Nearly twenty years ago, BCA initiated the conversation to address toxic exposures and environmental links to breast cancer. Because of those early conversations, researchers and some mainstream breast cancer groups are now dedicating time and money to understand those links. More recently, BCA began questioning cause marketing for breast cancer, and more organizations are now urging people to “Think Before You Pink” as a result. Based on our experience of driving new thinking about breast cancer in the past, it is time to drive the conversation to new ground again. BCA is the organization best poised to make this happen by focusing on emerging issues in breast cancer.

As a result of our visioning and strategic planning process, Breast Cancer Action has identified three priority areas on which to focus our work.

Advocate for more effective and less toxic breast cancer treatments by shifting the balance of power in the Food and Drug Administration’s drug approval process away from the pharmaceutical industry and towards the public interest. Our independence from pharmaceutical company funding puts us in a unique position in the breast cancer movement to advance this ambitious goal. And the need for this work becomes more evident everyday. Whether the problem is the FDA approving drugs for breast cancer treatment like Avastin before they have been shown to improve either survival or quality of life for breast cancer patients, or the need to pay attention to emerging dangerous side effects of drugs like ESA’s that have been heavily marketed to breast patients, BCA will always put the needs of women with breast cancer first, and motivate the FDA to do the same.

Decrease involuntary environmental exposures that put people at risk for breast cancer. While many breast cancer organizations offer advice on how individuals can reduce their voluntary exposures to carcinogens, the policy changes needed to eliminate these exposures for everyone require a broader social justice approach that BCA has always provided and will continue to provide. While people in some cases can avoid consuming dairy products that come from cows treated with rBGH—a growth hormone that is bad for our health, and the use of which has been linked to breast cancer—our work focuses on getting companies to change their practices so no one is exposed to rBGH-induced dairy products. We do this work by giving people the tools to demand the changes necessary to protect everyone from dangerous exposures.

Create awareness that it is not just genes, but social injustices-political, economic, and racial inequities-that lead to disparities in breast cancer outcomes. Discussions of the social determinants of health are beginning to emerge in a number of health fields, but the cancer world still focuses on genes and differences in screening patterns. So, while many people in public health understand that we can reduce the burden of asthma by focusing on the physical environments in which people live, the conversation in cancer focuses on the biological differences between people, or differences in access to breast cancer screening. We know there is more to it than this. BCA has changed many conversations in breast cancer, and we will work to change this one as well, so that people understand the social justice lens in which breast cancer needs to be seen and studied if we are ever to be able to change the differences in breast cancer outcomes that affect different groups of people.

BCA’s strategic priorities reflect both the organization’s past, and our commitment to a future that is made possible by the work and support of so many people to advance our mission. Our past accomplishments have been made possible by ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things. The path we have charted for Breast Cancer Action will become a reality because people who believe in our work and in their own power will strive with us to create that future.

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