A New York Times article published a few weeks ago called “Advances Elusive in the Drive to Cure Cancer” starts off:
“In 1971, flush with the nation’s success in putting a man on the Moon, President Richard M. Nixon announced a new goal. Cancer would be cured by 1976, the bicentennial.
When 1976 came and went, the date for a cure, or at least substantial progress, kept being put off. It was going to happen by 2000, then by 2015.
Now, President Barack Obama, discussing his plans for health care, has vowed to find “a cure” for cancer in our time and said that, as part of the economic stimulus package, he would increase federal money for cancer research by a third for the next two years.
Cancer has always been an expensive priority. Since the war on cancer began, the National Cancer Institute, the federal government’s main cancer research entity, with 4,000 employees, has alone spent $105 billion. And other government agencies, universities, drug companies and philanthropies have chipped in uncounted billions more.
Yet the death rate for cancer, adjusted for the size and age of the population, dropped only 5 percent from 1950 to 2005. In contrast, the death rate for heart disease dropped 64 percent in that time, and for flu and pneumonia, it fell 58 percent.”
If we want to truly find a cure for this disease, we need to approach the problem in an entirely different way. Because despite all his wrongdoings, Nixon was right. The cure for cancer is on the moon.
Meanwhile, working towards a cure for major diseases has become a major part of American commerce. We run marathons for cancer, hold telethons for Alzheimer, and create advertising to aid awareness of Parkinson’s. I’d never presume that any of these challenging and worthy efforts isn’t worth doing. However, it’s frustrating all these actions have yet to change the graph above in the world of cancer.
When an where will we hold accountable the major pharmaceutical companies that are supposed to provide these cures for having wasted decades, rationing out only treatments, like drugs intend to curb the effects of chemo? When do we get so fed up with watching our friends and loved ones suffer that we fight rather than advocate — that we demand change? Is this a communications problem? An information distribution problem? A political problem? I think and hope, that a large part of it is a design problem. After all, design is the changing of behavior.
To quote fellow blogger Bill Green, “Until we make finding the cure for whatever disease it is we have a national emergency on par with the effort to put a man on the moon, nothing will change. Americans always seem to need a kick in the ass to get going, but when they finally do, look the hell out.”
So if this is all about perception and motivating a large enough body of people to demand the powerful pharma organizations re-prioratize curing over treatment, then this design problem should have one goal: to inform and motivate the majority of America to focus on demanding a cure from those with the means to create it.