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Sen. Roz Baker honored for efforts to support public health

By Staff | Oct 13, 2011

From left, Cory Chun, American Cancer Society Hawaii Pacific government relations director; State Sen. Roz Baker; Bernie Sakoda of Kauai, state lead ambassador; Mia Ako from Kauai, Ambassador Constituent Team (ACT) Lead 2; and, Keahu Matsumoto of Oahu, ACT Lead 1, pose at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit, National Distinguished Advocacy Award breakfast in Washington, D.C.

LAHAINA – Hawaii State Sen. Rosalyn Baker of Lahaina was recently awarded the National Distinguished Advocacy Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in recognition of her years of commitment to strong public health and tobacco control policies.

The annual award is given by the network, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, to select lawmakers who demonstrate solid, consistent leadership in the area of cancer-related public policy advocacy.

“Senator Baker has always been a champion for cancer issues in the Hawaii State Legislature,” said Dr. Melvin Palalay, president of the American Cancer Society Hawaii Pacific corporate board.

“There isn’t a bill on cancer topics that Senator Baker hasn’t authored or been associated with. She has poured countless hours, years of her life, and blood sweat and tears into fighting cancer on all public policy fronts. With her unwavering commitment to fighting cancer through the power of public policy, Sen. Baker has positioned Hawaii as a forerunner in the realm of public health.”

In 2006, Baker, who represents South and West Maui, worked to pass Hawaii’s secondhand smoke law – at the time, the most comprehensive and far-reaching smoking law in the nation.

She worked to pass the oral chemotherapy coverage, colon cancer screening coverage and the state health care exchange coverage enabling laws.

Sen. Baker also worked to increase the cigarette tax, provided funding for tobacco control, cancer research, the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Her work on public health and tobacco control policy was recognized in 2007 with the Exemplary State Elected Official Comprehensive Cancer Control Leadership Award, C-Change, presented by President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush.

She was also recognized by the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii with the Mauka-Makai Award and by the American Cancer Society Hawaii Pacific with the Patti Schuler Award.

On behalf of Hawaii residents who have been touched by cancer, the network “applauds Sen. Roz Baker’s passion and determination to enact meaningful legislation that improves health care for everyone in Hawaii.”

Baker noted that she “was quite surprised actually, very honored and humbled that our work in Hawaii would be honored by the leading volunteer-led, community-based cancer fighting organization, where I’ve been a volunteer since 1984.”

She added that creating policy changes, such as Hawaii’s indoor smoke-free law, requires significant groundwork and grassroots support.

“Same is true of ensuring that insurance pays for use of colonoscopy as a screening tool. I believe that colorectal cancer is the number three cancer killer of men and women in Hawaii. So it is very gratifying that legislation I sponsored and helped get enacted can actually help save lives,” she wrote.

The Cancer Action Network is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate organization of the American Cancer Society, dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. It works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.