Florida House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meeting features stakeholder input about county health departments and cancer research needs


Hannah Saunders


The Florida House’s Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee met last week, where they were provided a presentation about the state’s county health departments and biomedical research programs concerning cancer. 

“We, as health departments, we have to look how can we move forward and meet the changing needs of our state,” Florida Interim Deputy Secretary for County Health Systems Mark Lander said. “We’re seeing an aging population … it’s no surprise that Florida is one of the—if not the—premier state[s] in the nation to move to.”


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While the population in Florida grows at a rapid rate, the state’s public health system is experiencing a loss of healthcare workers. Going forward, Lander explained how the department will focus on creating sound infrastructure, particularly in workforce, and other resources. 

“We have lost nurses, and every time we lose a nurse from public health, we lose institutional knowledge,” Lander said. “I think the department in the state of Florida has responded very well for acute issues. We’ve been able to bring in contract nursing.”

Further priorities moving forward include collaborating with partners at state and local levels, and ensuring the ability to respond to changing needs of Floridians and visitors. The state’s health improvement plan will also focus on Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias; chronic diseases and conditions; transmissible and emerging diseases; injury, safety, and violence; and maternal and child health. 

“I want to see some data for that,” Vice Chair Rep. Michelle Salzman (R – Escambia) said. “I really want to see what you’re choosing as your priorities and how you measure success so we can see if those measurements match how we measure success, and how can we properly fund what it is you’re trying to do in line with what we as a legislature would like to see.”

Daniel Armstrong, chair of Florida’s Biomedical Research Advisory Council, outlined the council’s goals headed into the future. Under the leadership of the state surgeon general, Armstrong and the council developed strategic biomedical research goals, including decreasing deaths in high-risk populations, increasing early detection of cancer, and reducing tobacco use, among others, to guide funding over the next 10 years. Armstrong mentioned how biomedical researchers are beginning to understand the relationship between obesity, healthy weight, and cancer. 

“The American Cancer Society had come out with an understanding that while tobacco use is associated with about 30% of all types of cancer, overweight obesity was associated with about the same,” Armstrong said. “This was an opportunity for us to be able to think about addressing that issue.”

On behalf of the council, Armstrong presented strategic plan implementation tactics, such as peer-reviewed grants for shared research infrastructure, and grants that optimize public-private partnerships in discovery science and health services research. 

Rep. Marie Woodson (D – Broward) asked which cancers are currently being prioritized, and what the correlation between eating food, obesity, and types of cancer developed. 

“I think the food industry would play an important role in the work that you’re doing from a research perspective,” Woodson said. 

Priority cancer types are the most prominent cancers in Florida, such as colon, lung, breast, prostate, and melanoma, said Armstrong, who also described that he has seen several studies that show high rates of obesity as a marker for the recurrence in breast cancer. 

“From the House’s perspective, I was doing some research in preparation for this meeting. I was looking back I think, the Academic Cancer Center Alliance, you know, I think it was 2013 or something like that when it was formed, kind of discussing the main things we wanted to do was, I mean, we want to establish as many cancer care centers possible in the state of Florida,” Chair Rep. Sam Garrison (R – Clay) said.