Public Policy

Understanding the need for a change in public policy to help reduce the cancer burden in South Carolina, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center is involved in a number of ongoing policy initiatives.

Current efforts include overcoming the barriers to effectively implement HPV vaccination in the state and strengthening the state's weak tobacco control climate.

Increasing HPV Vaccination Rates in South Carolina

As noted previously, South Carolina has higher rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality relative to the rest of the United States. Unfortunately, HPV vaccination rates in South Carolina are significantly lower than the national average. These low vaccination rates represent a missed opportunity to include HPV vaccination in the same mandatory series as Tdap and meningococcal conjugate for adolescent girls and boys. Ongoing statewide advocacy efforts are being led by Hollings Cancer Center to highlight the link between HPV and cancer.

Since 2012, Hollings and University of South Carolina School of Public Health leaders have spearheaded an organization called Cervical Cancer-Free South Carolina, a partner of Cervical Cancer-Free America. Cervical Cancer-Free South Carolina has been working since 2012 to increase awareness of HPV, related cancers, and the HPV vaccine. In 2014 and 2016, the organization hosted summits to bring together over 100 South Carolina leaders in public health, cancer care, and infectious diseases to discuss cervical cancer screening, eliminating disparities in cervical cancer, the role of the HPV vaccine in preventing cervical cancer, advocacy, and education.

Improving Tobacco Cessation in SC

Based on decades of research on effective, evidence-based smoking cessation programs, tobacco control experts at Hollings have developed a strategy to implement a statewide, hospital-based, tobacco-dependence treatment service. The intervention includes an inpatient bedside counseling program to provide services to patients who are hospitalized for any reason and who are current smokers. Over a period of one year, the effect of the treatment service on post-hospital health care charges showed a statistically significant reduction in costs. More importantly, the program also led to significant increases in smoking cessation. Of the 45,000+ patients in the program, 25% were still not smoking one month after the intervention.

Through ongoing research and intervention strategies, supported in part by the $5 million Hollings receives annually from the state tax increase, Hollings investigators have drawn widespread recognition for their efforts in tobacco cessation strategies, outcomes, and addiction science as well as in public policy implementation, including the development of a robust Tobacco Treatment Program and Lung Cancer Screening Program.

Through ongoing partnerships with local organizations such as the South Carolina Cancer Alliance and South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative, Hollings hopes to expand these efforts to a statewide hospital-based and health system-wide smoking cessation service, advocate for an increase in the cigarette tax, and revise current policy to address other nicotine products.