Killing multiple birds with one stone, saving more lives
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A recent study that found mammography screening for breast cancer may also help detect heart risk in women is another example of how thinking beyond one's medical specialty, tunnel-visioned silo may help save lives while saving money through the use of multiple applications.


The study released in late March — in anticipation of its presentation at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago later this week — noted that 70 percent of women who had evidence of breast-arterial calcification detected through digital mammography also had coronary-arterial calcification, often a predictor of heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found that breast-arterial calcification was as effective at predicting heart-arterial calcification as blood pressure, cholesterol and the Framingham Risk Score, but cautioned that the 292-woman study should be followed by a larger study before the information could be used effectively as a preventive strategy for reducing heart attacks and strokes.

However, the strategy of multiple applications — or the killing of more than one bird with a single stone — has already been shown to be an effective means of multitasking with available resources to benefit more people cost-effectively.

Although not totally analogous, it is reminiscent of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership — comprised of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the George W. Bush Institute, Susan G. Komen and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) — that leverages public and private investment in global health to help detect cervical and breast cancers, leading causes of cancer death in women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

That initiative built upon the already established HIV/AIDS platform, and integrated women's cancer control services into existing healthcare programs instead of having to create a totally new infrastructure.

So, instead of constantly looking for funding to keep reinventing the wheel, perhaps we should continue to find more creative uses of existing resources to extrapolate additional applications that benefit more for less.

Brinker the is founder of Susan G. Komen, the world's largest breast cancer charity; former Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control to the U.N.'s World Health Organization; and a lifelong member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Rosenthal is an independent journalist who covers issues, controversies and trends in oncology as special correspondent for MedPage Today. He is the founder of the National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers Public Affairs Network, and helped organize a number of national medicine-and-the-media conferences. The opinions expressed belong solely to the authors.