ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Weicker to Head Pew Commission
The Pew Charitable Trusts Tuesday launched an 18-month, blue- ribbon commission charged with proposing recommendations to bolster tracking and prevention of health problems related to environmental conditions. The Pew Environmental Health Commission will be chaired by former three-term Republican U.S. senator-turned-Independent Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker Jr., and will include representatives from the public policy, government, health, academic and nonprofit communities. In conjunction with the launch, Pew released a poll by the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies showing that 86% of the public believes that environmental factors are a major cause of health problems and disease; 65% believe that more should be done to protect public health; and 87% are concerned that no national system currently exists to monitor exposures from environmental threats or track chronic diseases. Pew also notes that in the last 20 years, researchers have noticed a sharp increase in disease -- particularly among children -- that may have environmental roots, such as asthma and leukemia (Pew release, 5/11).
Plan of Action
"Something is telling us there is a missing piece to the health equation and I suspect that it is the environment," Weicker said (Urban, Connecticut Post, 5/12). Commission executive director Shelly Herne said she will direct the panel to "assess what local, state and national systems already exist for tracking links between chronic diseases and environmental hazards" (Post, 5/12). Weicker said he plans to work with the CDC and the NIH to formulate solutions. "I don't think we need more agencies, I think we need more cross-pollination of ideas," he said. At the end of the commission's 18-month tenure, Weicker will forward recommendations on to Congress or the Clinton administration (Baldor, New Haven Register, 5/12). The commission also plans to release several interim reports over the period. The commission is being funded by a $2.8 million grant to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health from the Pew Charitable Trusts (Post, 5/12).