April 27, 2004
The Honorable Ralph Regula
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
House Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
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: House Committee on Appropriations