ATLANTA - Gov. Roy Barnes attempted Friday to calm concerns that his plan to make Georgia a national leader in the fight against cancer could put the state's economic prosperity ahead of its people.
Mr. Barnes assured attendees at the 2001 Cancer Conference in Atlanta that potential research revenue from the Georgia Cancer Coalition won't overshadow efforts to boost cancer prevention and treatment programs.
The Cancer Coalition is a public/private-endorsed effort - led by Mr. Barnes - to develop world-class cancer treatment, research and prevention facilities in Georgia.
"It's very disingenuous to concentrate on the pizzazz of research to the detriment of prevention," said Mr. Barnes, headlining the national conference's closing session on the future of science, public health and cancer.
Plans for the Cancer Coalition include an extensive campaign by the Georgia Research Alliance to attract new researchers and pharmaceutical companies to Georgia.
The governor's earlier remarks at the conference had highlighted the economic benefits the Cancer Coalition could offer the state's economy, through tangibles such as new businesses, and intangibles such as healthier workers and fewer work days lost to cancer.
Dr. Louis Sullivan, founding dean and president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, also extolled the economic virtues the Cancer Coalition could bring Georgia during his keynote speech at the conference Wednesday.
The repeated talk of monetary advantages didn't sit well with some of the health care workers at the conference.
"We don't want people to get sick so we can cure them. We want them not to get sick," said Margie Harris, a cancer prevention and control advocate from Illinois.
Lois Hill of the Ohio Department of Health said too much focus on research heightens cancer patients' over-reliance on medicine. Ms. Hill said this diminishes funding for preventative procedures, such as mammograms, pap smears and prostate exams - key components in the early detection of cancer.
"I'm concerned that until we reduce the disparity in funding for research compared to prevention, we'll only perpetuate the expectation of these medicine cabinets full of new pharmaceuticals," Ms. Hill told Mr. Barnes during a question-and-answer session.
Mr. Barnes, along with Georgia Cancer Coalition Director Russ Toal and Georgia Research Alliance President C. Michael Cassidy, assured conference members the Cancer Coalition won't put preventative efforts on a backburner.
"You cannot say that research is the sole basis for attacking cancer," said Mr. Barnes, who has lost an aunt, an uncle and a niece to the deadly disease.
Augusta and Savannah are among the Georgia communities vying to be the host of the two centers the Cancer Coalition expects to create in addition to one already designated for Atlanta.