Taking the Pulse of the U.S. Breast Cancer Movement: A Network Analysis

Photo: National Breast Cancer Coalition Advocacy Conference, 2011.

This study examines the type, strength, and impacts of state and local community-based organizations in shaping breast cancer and health policy. It systematically determines the characteristics and attributes of breast cancer advocacy organizations and how these groups function with regard to policy, programming, funding, social composition, community influence, alliances, and linkages to broader policy networks and infrastructure. Using the breast cancer movement as a case, the objective is to examine the differentiated role of social organizations in health policy formation.

Taking the Pulse of the U.S. Breast Cancer Movement illuminates the conditions that contribute to or undermine the political, social, and policy influence of community based organizations. This project builds upon earlier research into the social and cultural forces that influence breast cancer, both individually and as a social problem.

Background: From 1991 to 2012, more than 870 resolutions and bills related to breast cancer were introduced in the United States Congress. The breast cancer bills enacted vary: the designation of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; establishment of a breast cancer postage stamp; funding for the Department of Defense Peer-Reviewed Breast Cancer Research Program; adjustment of mammography standards; funding of research into new applications of imaging technology from missile systems for breast cancer detection; illumination of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis honoring awareness month; the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act, and others. Many of the bills introduced or enacted were in response to pressure from advocacy groups.

Research Questions: Despite an image of congruence and unanimity in the breast cancer movement, there are quite different levels of corporate investment, publicity, and political influence across groups. Hundreds of community based organizations advocate within and across spheres of influence to affect public policy. Do they work together? Impede one another? Which policy agendas are important, and to which groups? How do they develop these agendas? To what extent have the policies put forth had a meaningful impact on the breast cancer epidemic?


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