Another Battle in the Bush War on Science

It is hard to keep up with how many ways this Administration finds to obstruct, distort, and simply abandon science. Hat tip to Jim for calling our attention to the White House cutting all funding for The National Children’s Study. Congress authorized the study through the Children’s Health Act of 2000. In the Senate FY2006 appropriation, the NICHD and Study Planners were directed to have the NCS ready for implementation in FY2007. The director of the study, Dr. Peter Scheidt, said: “By fiscal year 2007, approximately 50 million dollars will have been spent in planning the Study.” Well, hold that plan, the FY 2007 President’s Budget Request says:

“No funds are included in the President’s Budget Request for FY 2007 for the National Children’s Study. The NCS planning activities that are on going under contract in FY 2006 will be brought to a close by the end of the fiscal year. There are no plans for the NIH to continue to pursue the full scale study in FY 2007.”(NICHD Congressional Justification, 2/6/2006)

What are they studying?

The National Children’s Study will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. …[It] will be the first effort to capture exposures prior to and early in pregnancy, and to then track participants for more than 20 years. …The Study Plan focuses on several priority health themes: outcomes of pregnancy, child growth and development, injury, asthma, and psychological and emotional health.

“Environment” is broadly defined, taking into account many issues, including:

Natural and man-made environment factors
Biological and chemical factors
Physical surroundings
Social factors
Behavioral influences and outcomes
Genetics
Cultural and family influences and differences
Geographic locations

Over 2,500 scientists and community members from across the country have developed a Study Plan that defines research questions, hypotheses, and critical exposure and outcome measures beginning before pregnancy and continuing throughout the life cycle of children. …The NCS will be one of the richest information resources available for answering questions related to children’s health and development and will form the basis of child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come. …In 2005, the Study designated Vanguard, or pilot, Centers in seven sites throughout the United States and created a coordinating center to implement the Study. In 2006 the Study plans to finalize the Study protocol. At the same time they also will prepare for cessation of National Children’s Study activities in 2007 as directed in the President’s budget.

The bottom line: the rich will receive tax cuts to ‘invest in the American economy’ and 50 million tax dollars will go down the drain, instead of finding funds to pay dedicated scientists to learn as much about environmental influences on childhood development as the ’48 Farminghamn Heart and National Nurses’ studies are providing in their landmark longitudinal research. The battle is still in progress:

14th Meeting of the National Children’s Study Federal Advisory Committee (NCSAC) May 31 and June 1, 2006
The agenda will include segments on support and the science underlying of the National Children’s Study and updates on the protocol, progress, and implementation.

Phone calls, emails and LTE’s are always the plan for getting the attention of the Congressional members who represent you, care, or serve on the committees. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families is responsible for the NCS legislation. HELP Members are; GOP: Chair,Enzi (WY), Gregg (NH), Frist (TN), Alexander (TN), Burr(NC), Isakson (GA), DeWine(OH), Ensign (NV), Hatch (UT), Sessions (AL), Roberts (KS), DEMs: Kennedy (MA), Dodd (CT), Harkin (IA), Mikulski (MD), Jeffords (VT, I), Bingaman (NM), Murray (WA), Reed (RI), Clinton (NY). The House and Senate Budget Committees are now responsible for making funding changes.

On March 9th, U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD), and Representative Stephanie Herseth (D-SD) sent letters to the Senate and House Budget Committees, advocating that funding be restored for the NCS. Contacts for the SD Delegation: Julianne Fisher, Joshua Rosenblum (202)224-5842. The letter was cosigned by Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). (Noted that the interest in this is from states that have designated Vanguard centers. It is reasonable that the researchers in those states have contacted their representatives on the importance of the study and the loss of funding).

America can afford a stagnating war and tax cuts, and we can’t fund a study that will improve the health of our children for many decades, with a huge potential for decreasing health care costs in the future. Because Bush sees it as taking from the rich and giving to scientists? Or is it taking from the tree of knowledge he wants to stop? Time for him to learn some truth.

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2 Responses to Another Battle in the Bush War on Science

  1. Ginny in CO says:

    Another piece that I finally rediscovered at WaPo:

    As Babies Are Born Earlier, They Risk Problems Later

    The national average length of a US pregnancy has shortened to 39 weeks due to the number of pregnancies that are delivered early for a variety of reasons. Many of the longer term risks are not well established for babies born at 34 to 36 weeks. The significant rise in this number is going to trigger higher frequencies of the developmental problems.

    Asthma has been increasing at alarming rates nationally and is a severe issue for childhood development. Understanding that trend alone would save millions in life cost treatments.

    New knowledge on how the teenage brain follows the last major developmental stage from 14 -16, by destroying thousands of synaptic pathways has indicated why psychological problems, especially schizphrenia, surface at this time. There is still a huge amount of research work to be done on this and going back to before birth will give us the clearest answers.

    This is just plain insupportable. I would expect the budget committee process to reinsert this despite W’s request, especially in an election year. Given the names on those committees, I would not trust them with having that much sense.

  2. KJ says:

    GWB has, in my opinion, no concept of “The Seventh Generation.”

    He is impluse-on-ramage gone amock… times all the deaths and ruined lives he is personally responsible for.

    The idea that in some areas, he remains the old “square vs. hippie” choice is a mind-boggler for the ages.