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April 27, 2004
The Honorable Arlen Specter
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
Senate Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express our support for an appropriation of $27 million for the implementation of the National Longitudinal Cohort Study of American Children (National Children’s Study), authorized in the Children’s Health Act of 2000. As you know, the National Children’s Study will provide critical information about environmental links to diseases affecting children from before birth into adulthood. This increased funding would be contained in the Fiscal Year 2005 appropriation for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
Even before they are born, children face a disproportionate threat to their development from exposures to toxins. Without information about how we can protect children-- born and unborn-- from environmental hazards, children’s futures and their ability to fulfill their God-given potential will continue to be undermined.
We believe all children have the right to live with dignity and to realize the bright promise and opportunity of childhood. We are particularly concerned about the poor, the powerless, and children who most often directly bear the burden and suffer disproportionately from the harmful environmental effects of toxins.
To address this type of problem, the Catholic community has formed a coalition of major Catholic institutions and networks, the Catholic Coalition for Children and a Safe Environment (CASE). The purpose of the coalition is to address in particular the environmental hazards affecting children’s health. Based on our extensive experience in providing health care and social services to many children and families, particularly among the poor, we are concerned that they remain unaware about the harmful effects of toxins such as lead and mercury, as well as other toxins.
However, despite the Coalition’s efforts and those of others, there is still a need for a comprehensive federal initiative that will provide critical information about the behavioral, social and environmental factors affecting a child’s health from the earliest stages of life. The National Children’s Study fills that need.
With new information about child health from the National Children’s Study, researchers hope to discover what may cause or predispose individuals to certain chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. For low-income families who suffer disproportionately from multiple environmental exposures, this information can lead to preventative measures and treatment that can dramatically improve their lives.
Although the President’s budget includes a commitment of $12 million for the National Children’s Study, this amount would only fund the planning phase of the project, delaying the actual study by at least another year. I ask that you consider providing at least $27 million in appropriations in Fiscal Year 2005 to ensure that the NICHD can begin implementing the study.
I realize that you are called to make hard decisions about national resources at a time of major challenges. As you make those decisions, we bishops believe that the needs of the poor and vulnerable, of children and families of modest means, deserve special priority as you allocate economic resources and burdens. To that end, I urge you to find the resources necessary to promptly implement the National Children’s Study, in a way that does not undermine other programs serving those most in need.
Thank you for giving this request serious consideration.
With every good wish I am,
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
cc: Senate Committee on Appropriations
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