Tue, Mar. 26, 2002
BY TOM RAGAN
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Legislation introduced in the U.S. House and Senate late last week would create a nationwide network to track chronic diseases and try to determine whether environmental factors play a role. Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, birth defects and cancers are some of the afflictions that would be tracked by state.
It would also track environmental exposures, including mercury, lead and pesticides. Some of the tracking is taking place, but the authors of the legislation say it's not being conducted in a consistent manner. Numerous health groups that follow chronic diseases agree.
"We offer world class medical treatment for people once they are sick, but we do far too little to prevent illness in the first place," said Lois Banks, director of community health for Trust for America's Health, a national nonprofit Washington-based group that works to improve public health.
The community health planner for the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment says the bill is a good idea. In Colorado, chronic wasting disease in elk is being tracked and counted.
That's a concept that could be applied to diseases in humans, said Ann Zelinksi, community health planner for the Health Department. Diabetes among blacks and Hispanics, cervical cancer among Asian women and Lou Gehrig's disease among military personnel are trends that could be documented across the county, Zelinski said.
The legislation was introduced by Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada and Reps. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Pete King, R-N.Y., Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
A Health Tracking Network for chronic diseases would cost an estimated $275 million a year, about $1 for every American. It would be similar to the manner in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps tabs on infectious diseases, the bill's authors said.
Chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma and birth defects are increasing.
About 100 million Americans, or more than one-third of the population,
suffer from some form of chronic disease, the bill's authors said.
© 2002, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)