Breast Cancer and Young Women

GAO Podcast IconYoung women account for 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States. They tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and experience worse outcomes and unique issues—such as fertility concerns.

Listen to Marcia Crosse, a director in our Health Care team discuss the effects of breast cancer on younger women and some of their unique challenges:

And, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, read on to learn about federal efforts to provide breast cancer education and support to young women.

Initiatives Aimed at Young Women 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent nearly $37 million in recent years on breast cancer prevention research, supporting grants, educating health professionals, and a public education campaign. For example, CDC conducted research in to the economic implications of breast cancer, infertility, and survivorship.

Figure 1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Reported Spending on EARLY Act Activities, Fiscal Years 2010 through 2016(Excerpted from GAO-17-19)

Given the importance of early detection—and the tendency to think of breast cancer as an older woman’s disease—CDC spent about $9 million on a national campaign to educate young women about breast cancer. Specifically, CDC launched 2 initiatives using social media:

  • Bring Your Brave—a web-based campaign that shares online videos with personal testimonials about prevention, risk, and survivorship from young women who have experienced breast cancer, and provides tools and templates for young women to share their stories.
  •  Know: BRCA—an interactive web resource that enables women to determine their potential risk of having a breast cancer susceptibility gene (BRCA) mutation, and encourages them to discuss this risk with their family and medical providers.

Figure 2: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Know: BRCA Website(Excerpted from GAO-17-19)

It’s too soon to know how effective these programs have been, but to learn more about the goals of federal initiatives aimed at providing breast cancer education and support to young women, check out our full report.

  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Marcia Crosse at
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact
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How the Government Engaged the Public to Help Rebuild After Sandy: The Rebuild by Design Competition

Today we’re pleased to share a blog post written by one of our 2016 summer interns, Lauren Shaman, a graduate student at Indiana University.

rebuildbydesignAs the fourth anniversary of superstorm Sandy draws near, let’s take a look at one of the unique ways the government responded to this disaster.  In June of 2013, the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to launch a prize competition to generate ideas on how to rebuild communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  The competition, named Rebuild by Design, offered $200,000 cash prize awards to finalist design teams to develop proposals to increase the resiliency of communities and the region.

To administer and fund the competition HUD partnered with research, advocacy, and philanthropic organizations from the region, which officials stated was critical to the initiative’s success.   This network of partners helped the agency and participating design teams engage hundreds of local stakeholder groups from communities affected by Sandy. Ultimately, HUD selected 6 winning designs and one finalist design, all of which they allocated money to implement. For example, one winning design funded by HUD would create a protective system around the southern end of New York City to shield against floods while also providing social and environmental benefits to the community.

This is just one example of many of how a federal agency is harnessing the expertise of the public to help carry out its mission.

How else do government agencies engage the public?

The government is increasingly using technology to engage with citizens, experts, and organizations to harness their ideas, expertise, and resources to solve some of today’s greatest issues, which is known as open innovation.  But how do they do this?  Our recent report found that there are five open innovation strategies agencies have frequently used.

Listen to Chris Mihm, managing director of our Strategic Issues team, discuss what agencies should consider when choosing among strategies:


You can learn more about the five open innovation strategies and examples of how they’re being used in our newest infographic:

Open Innovation infographic

  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Chris Mihm at
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact
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National Save for Retirement Week

photo of cake for a retirement partyThe U.S. population is changing and so is retirement. Boomers are aging, traditional pensions are shifting to voluntary contribution plans, and Social Security faces important financial challenges. Planning—and saving—for retirement is more important than ever.

For National Save for Retirement Week, we’re blogging about the state of Americans’ retirement savings, sharing our interactive tool for how your 401(k) plan may perform, and answering some key questions about the future of Social Security.

Are you ready to retire?

Just over half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings—such as an IRA or 401(k) plan. And the half that does may have a hard time making their money last through retirement.

In 2015, a team led by Charles Jeszeck, a director in our Education, Workforce, and Income Security team, reviewed the financial resources of retirees and workers approaching retirement. Listen to what they found:


We’ll show you how long your money may last

Saving for retirement is critical, and many American workers use an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to do so. But the extent to which plans offer options on how to spend your savings in retirement—such as whether or not they offer a lifetime annuity—can affect how long your savings will last through retirement.

Our interactive tool shows you the four options retirees use for their monthly 401(k) income—and how those choices can affect how long the money will last.

What about Social Security?

Social Security is a bedrock of retirement security—annually providing billions of dollars to older Americans and their families, as well as providing benefits to people with disabilities. But Social Security’s costs now exceed its revenues, and changes are needed to help ensure that its programs can continue to provide all the benefits promised to current workers, retirees, and their families.

In this video, we explain how Social Security works—and options to fix it.

Our infographic also provides high-level findings from our in-depth analysis of Social Security’s future.

Infographic: Social Security's Future

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The Great Shake Out: What You Need to Know About Earthquake Preparedness

Homeland SecurityEarthquake preparedness helps protect lives and property from the devastation that earthquakes can cause. It’s particularly important for earthquakes that are difficult to predict or arrive with little warning.

The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills are happening tomorrow—are you prepared? To help, the WatchBlog explores ShakeAlert, the earthquake early warning system, and other efforts to prep for quakes. Continue reading

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Measuring Federal Employee Performance

IMG_0154For many federal employees, October means another cycle of performance appraisals and ratings. Federal agencies need employees who do good work, so today’s WatchBlog looks at what it takes to rate federal employees, how they measure up, and what to do with poor performers. Continue reading

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Thinking about Joining Medicare Advantage?

photo of an aging person's handsIf you have Medicare, this time of year always brings an opportunity to switch health plans during the annual open enrollment period, which starts this weekend and runs through December 7. About 30% of Medicare participants choose Medicare Advantage plans—the private plan  alternative to traditional or “original” Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plans offer the same benefits as those covered under traditional Medicare, but they also differ in significant ways. So, today’s WatchBlog explores some issues to consider when choosing a Medicare plan. Continue reading

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Veterans’ Health Care Physician Credentials (podcast)

GAO Podcast IconAre our veterans always being treated by qualified physicians?

Millions of vets rely on the Veterans Health Administration to provide them with health care services, and VHA contracts out some of these services. How much does VHA know about these doctors’ credentials and qualifications?

A team led by Elizabeth Curda, a director in our Health Care team, recently set out to explore this question. Here’s what they found.


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Federal Disaster Assistance (infographic)

gao-16-797_disaster-assistance-infographic_thumbnail_v2Hurricane Matthew is one of the strongest storms to impact U.S. shores in decades.

The federal government has a role in helping the nation respond to and recover from hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and other major disasters or emergencies.

Our infographic shows you which disasters receive federal assistance and the different types of federal help. Continue reading

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Federal Cybersecurity Challenges

information technologyThese days, when you turn on the news you almost always see another hack, leak, or breach putting sensitive information at risk. But we’ve been focusing on keeping federal agency information systems secure for a long time. For October’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the WatchBlog takes a look at federal cybersecurity challenges. Continue reading

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Earthquake Preparedness (podcast)

GAO Podcast IconAs the 2011 Virginia earthquake demonstrated, earthquakes aren’t just a west coast concern. The quake shook the entire D.C.-metro region, surprising a population unaccustomed to seismic activity—including us.

Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes can be hard to prepare for because they’re so unexpected—for now. The federal government and its partners are currently working on the “Shake Alert” earthquake early warning system, which could potentially warn of an oncoming quake seconds or minutes before it hits.

Listen to Chris Currie, a director in our Homeland Security and Justice team, discuss this and other federal efforts to assess risks, and prepare for earthquakes.


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