Photo by Jonathan Francisca

We hear a lot about change — snappy slogans and uplifting sound bites — but real change, lasting change, requires so much more than words.

And while it’s often briefly encouraging to hear that people want to change things, we know that intentions never replace intelligence or strategies when it comes to actually doing something. It’s not one tool, thought or idea that shifts change but rather a tapestry of skills, visions, passions, and collaboration that occur on a steady basis by a committed group of fighters.

Change never happens in a silo.

To effect real change, successful change makers implement a range of tools every day, including drive, hard work, focus, and discipline — strategically directed towards the desired goal.

In my role as founder, the work for Less Cancer has been 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the last 15 years, with the sole mission to prevent cancer.

In 2003, the initial step for pursuing the lofty goal of “Less Cancer” was genuinely understanding that lasting change is a persistent, step-by-step process.

Our first step meant fully committing to changing cultural attitudes about cancer. Introducing the concept of cancer prevention required reaching and influencing the masses through educating the public by way of letter writing campaigns, newsletters and press releases. It needed labor, time and intensive meetings with community leaders, health care providers, scientists, policymakers, and legislators.

In 2003, before I fully dove into the issue, few people outside of the science world understood anything remotely resembling cancer prevention. Even healthcare providers did not fully understand prevention. Ironic as today one of our most robust programs is now providing programming for healthcare providers to include physicians, nurses and public health professionals.

The prevailing belief was that cancer was not something that could be prevented, but rather could only be treated after diagnosis. Solutions for cancer at the time looked like laboratories, white coats, stethoscopes, nurses and physicians.

In 2003, the term “cancer prevention” was unknown, never communicated or discussed by mainstream media; the two words were never seen or heard together. Since then, the Less Cancer community has understood that prevention is the most effective solution for cancer with a number of small but poignant and steady successes along the way.

Getting the general public to shift towards an understanding that something like obesity can potentially be as much of a cancer risk as something like cigarette smoking is paramount if we are to move towards real progress in preventing instances of cancer.

So how do we continue to change people’s awareness of cancer prevention?

The work for change takes shape by first manifesting itself in ideas — we collectively turn those ideas into actions, programs, policy, and education.

Less Cancer has done that, we have fanned out globally addressing cancer prevention. Evidence-based science points to over 50% of all cancers being preventable.

Lasting change requires a step-by-step process that needs to remain constant and come at people from a variety of directions. It takes an army.

What I know today is that for this work to continue making a difference we need to commit to a long-term investment in tackling issues like education, policy the environment.

Everyone can participate, even at the smallest level, to be a part of change. With Less Cancer, any individual can initiate and contribute to global change by starting with something as small as making more informed and mindful decisions about the food, household cleaning and lawn care products they choose to buy. Other people may be called to do more, and there are many opportunities for them to be involved with policy, policymakers and legislation. There are so many ways to engage. Many efforts are important in the work for less cancer in time, talent and treasure. As an organization we always welcome the support for change.

Yes, the change continues — but only with you.

Investing in Change was originally published in Less Cancer Journal on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.