Friday, February 3, 2012

Komen's Shifting Narrative

After all the Komen whoopla this week, what has changed for women at risk for cancer?

Nothing.   Poverty is still a carcinogen.  Women who are poor are still poor. Their cancers are still detected at later stages when the disease is much more difficult to treat.  

What has changed was the lightning fast transmission of outrage via social media following the announcement Tuesday that Susan G. Komen would no longer fund breast health services through Planned Parenthood. The social media conversation that erupted made Komen’s communications stance seem like something out of the Cold War. If they had a communications strategy, that is.

Yesterday Komen founder Nancy Brinker appeared on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell and started to drop the “metrics” buzzword as if that could explain how their funding shift only applied to one organization. The first explanation was that Komen would no longer fund organizations that were under investigation for alleged misuse of federal funds, yet that narrative wobbled within 24 hours. Today, after the AP broke the story that Komen was revising its funding decision, further analysis of the Komen statement revealed that the organizations revised its decision for this year. Planned Parenthood can then reapply and go through this exciting process all over again.

Women who are poor are still poor, in Texas, in Mississippi or California.  Oregon.  Colorado.

One obvious point that no one pursued or Komen officials never answered was why no one at Komen even responded to Planned Parenthood’s requests to meet with Komen’s Board.  That used to be called bad manners. While in the telling of the story that may seem like a minor point (and part of Planned Parenthood’s own spin machine) for most of us out here in the real world not returning phone calls with business partners ultimately is a kiss of doom.  So it may prove to be for Komen.  But even if the shifting narrative didn’t evolve in very real world where poor women are trying, not always successfully, to find where they can receive screening services, the verdict did. The answer wasn’t about pink at all but FOR assuring continued service to the underserved.

In the meantime donors talked.  Small donors and big donors.  A lot of money changed hands. It wasn't long before nonprofits began trolling for each other’s donors.  Some of this was subtle, and some of it was not so.

Because at the end of the day: women who are poor are still poor.  Until we adequately address the issue of health disparities in this country and develop aggressive prevention strategies all the money in the world won’t matter.  We may not have the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but we’ll still have cancer. At the end of the day, that’s what we're here to fight.


The Accidental Amazon said...

Yep. And you can bet that a lot of us will continue to talk about this. One thing this debacle achieved was to place in stark relief the political polarization in this country surrounding the delivery of healthcare, and especially healthcare for the poor and underinsured. Not to mention reproductive choice. We shall see how far this manifest outrage at Komen's hyprocrisy can be turned to real action and commitment where it counts.

Nancy's Point said...

I hope the events of this week have caused many to do some re-thinking about a lot of things. There is so much work to be done on so many fronts.

Thank you for your advocacy and for this post.

Julie Goodale said...

Excellent! And there are still vast racial disparities (not just related to income). Women's lives are where the focus needs to be. Big non-profit is VERY BIG BUSINESS!! It's up to all of us to try to keep the focus where it should be.

katie ford hall said...

Thanks Jody, for keeping us focused on what matters.


Jody said...

Thanks friends, for your comments. What thrills me is that we heard from more people this week who are new to the discussion - about cancer, about screening, about disparities and inequality.

There was a chorus of new voices that finally found the courage to speak up for others.


Let's make sure we keep it moving.

-- jms