Terry on Jun 18th 2012
The Columbus Dispatch
That plan will guide how department employees respond to inquiries about cancer incidence in a community, Dr. Ted Wymyslo said.
It will address how the department works with local health officials and researchers outside government, including those at universities, he said.
Word of the policy work came after The Dispatch reported that Robert Indian, the department’s top cancer-control expert, said he wants to avoid working on cluster investigations whenever possible.
Wymyslo said he doesn’t want Ohioans to think his department isn’t interested in responding when people believe there is something unusual going on in a community.
At a minimum, the state always will provide data to put the cancer incidence into perspective and help determine whether there are higher-than-normal rates, he said.
And regardless of what the data says, the department has a responsibility to listen to and address public concerns, Wymyslo said.
Robert Jennings, a spokesman for the department, said the state’s policies will be discussed with Indian, Jennings said.
Over the past few years, Indian repeatedly has said that cluster investigations are almost always fruitless and that resources are better used in prevention and early detection of disease.
Last week, he cited a recent investigation in Clyde as more evidence that years of work in a community with higher-than-normal cancer rates usually leads to no answers. In Clyde, a small farming town in Sandusky County, 35 children were found to have cancer in a 15-year period.
It’s notoriously difficult to link a single cause to a cluster of cancer cases. But many public-health experts and advocates say authorities should work hard to uncover links between environment factors, including industrial contaminants, and illness.
“I’ve always had a problem with how they do cluster investigations,” said Teresa Mills, the Ohio organizer for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
“I was in Clyde, Ohio, when (Indian) stood up there and said, ‘We’re not likely to find anything’ before they ever started,” Mills said.
“Maybe we don’t need ODH to be doing our cancer-cluster investigations, if that’s the attitude they take from the very beginning.”
Mills and others have asked the legislature to take up a bill that would make several changes, including requiring detailed and frequent online reporting of cancer incidence by county and census tract.
The proposal also would require a written response from the state Health Department within two months of a request for an investigation. In that response, the state would have to provide details of its investigation plan along with a timeframe for completing the work.
It also outlines steps that should be taken if the state finds that cancer cases in a community appear linked in some way.
<,a href="http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/06/18/state-to-set-cancer-cluster-policy-after-health-officials-comment.html">Columbus Dispatch
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