Regulation Can Help Innovation

Politicians often promote the need for “innovation” and cast “regulation” as its diametrically-opposed villain. This is true especially in the realms of promoting sound public health and protecting the environment. The tired argument is an effort to engage the public in choosing a political ideology, as opposed to promoting nonpartisan policies that actually can make a difference in the quality and length of our lives. Some of these potentially innovative policies simply involve common sense that can prevent disease and protect human health. 

The story of innovation for cancer over the last 100 years has been a “break and fix model” with relatively little headway, resulting in a world today of more cancer not less. We have shiny new cancer centers filled with gadgets and hope, which are profit centers, where more and more patients are being treated, not less. 

This is the sad truth: While we know of success stories in cancer treatment and we have had some inroads on cancer battles, we aren’t really winning the war on cancer. 

In developing non-partisan policies and regulations, we need to heed the overwhelming message coming out of the emerging science of cancer: half of all cancers are preventable! Yes, half! With the right policies in place, we as a country could have an opportunity to reach for the low-hanging fruit on preventable cancers, saving lives and money; instead, we have a nation of lobbyists fighting for special interests, in many cases working against protecting human health.  

The indoor tanning issue, for instance, is a cancer risk we know we can prevent and in turn not only protect but save lives. Recently New Hampshire banned the use of tanning beds for minors, saving not just lives but countless dollars. 

Yet in Michigan, as in many other states, tanning beds are banned to minors only if they don’t have parental permission. We do not do that for cigarettes or alcohol, so why would we do that for indoor tanning where the risk for cancer is well established? 

Those individuals who may not share priorities on cancer prevention efforts, also need to understand that when people are chronically sick, we all end up paying — in even greater amounts.

Unfortunately, the arguments about guarding public health have been turned around. Often efforts for policy changes are demonized as “Big Brother” regulatory efforts to control lifestyles, without acknowledging the invisible handcuffs of increased incidences of cancer, and the concomitant cost and health consequences.

Two important tenets of our society are at play: the role of capitalism and of government regulation. It’s fair to say I think we are all for making money; however, not at the expense of our children’s health and welfare. Without making their well-being a major priority, we lose perspective. The current state is that we put profit ahead of safety, in many cases a record worse that other advanced economies.

As Americans, how did we get to a place where we allow a government to obscure information we need for our own well-being, whether benign or harmful, always in the name of “reducing regulation and increasing innovation”? If we as a country want to look for real innovation, let’s look for policymakers with strong nonpartisan leadership skills, who can bridge this gap, and work to protect human health. 

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