Junkfood Science: First ever government database on us and our children

October 14, 2007

First ever government database on us and our children

The largest and most expensive government study on child health in the history of the United States was launched this past week. Is this a clinical trial to test a cure for cancer or promising new treatment for a devastating child disease?


It is to create the largest governmental database of personal information on 100,000 families. This database will be available for dredging to try and find endless correlations to child health problems that “seem to be increasing at epidemic rates” such as obesity, heart disease, autism, ADHD, asthma and birth defects.

The National Children’s Study (NCS) is being headed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (which includes the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This project was designed by the National Children’s Study Federal Advisory Committee and its working groups from federal agencies, NGOs and private interests, according to the NCS Questions & Answers.

The NCS will be conducted at 105 locations across the country and will recruit pregnant women, with most families to be approached door-to-door. To ensure continued participation of the families and children until their 21st birthdays, the study says there will be close contact with study staff, newsletters, websites for children, get-togethers, public meetings, and paid compensation. The information that will be gathered on children and their families include:

· genetics

· parenting styles

· child behavior

· race, religion and cultural differences

· home and neighborhood environments

· emotional stress and neighborhood safety

· diets and eating habits

· air, water, house dust, and household exposures

· income

· family relationships

· medical conditions and use of medical services

The first thing that pops out about most all of the personal information being gathered on American families, is how intrusive it is into private lives and lifestyles, as well as cultural and socioeconomic aspects of our homes and communities.

How will voluntarily giving the government such information benefit families and children, and how will it be used? The Citizens’ Council on Health Care is concerned that this Congressional-mandated program uses the facade of obesity and other popular health causes, when the real reason for its creation is to gather data to justify intrusive governmental policies that will give the government more authority over the raising of our children and over our lifestyles. In a statement issued on October 4th, CCHC said that the NCS “exploits America’s children and threatens the freedom of Americans.”

“Government agencies will use the data to rationalize greater government interference in every aspect of our lives and to further regulate every company that has anything to do with the air we breath, the money we make, the water we drink, the house we live in, or the food we eat,” said CCHC president Twila Brase.

This may sound melodramatic until one looks deeper into its creation. This government initiative was part of the Congressional Children’s Health Act of 2000. Section 1004 is evidence of the political purposes of this study. It mandates regular reports of the findings and implementations to be submitted to appropriate Congressional committees.

Twenty-six universities across the country have been awarded as study centers by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Awarded is the correct term, as $123.6 million has already been allocated from 2000 through 2007 just to get the study organized and it’s not expected to actually begin until January 2009. The study will run through 2034 and the final price tag for American taxpayers is unfathomable. For each of these universities, the money is significant. The University of New Mexico, for example, will receive $12.3 million just over the next five years for its part in enrolling 1,000 children in Valencia County.

It is important for all of us — healthcare professionals and consumers — to know about this piece of legislation because it also explains a lot about why we’ve been inundated over the past seven years and why so many have come to believe that “healthy” eating and exercise are imperative, that our diets and lifestyles have become so horribly unhealthy and that childhood obesity has become a public health crisis. The insights are in Title XXIV of the Children’s Health Act: "Childhood Obesity Prevention.” It also explains why so many entities have been creating unsound childhood obesity programs, studies and educational campaigns: unlimited government grant money for those who enact the childhood obesity initiatives under the director of the CDC.

· There are grants for those who develop school and community-based programs to promote “good” eating and physical activity (Section 399W).

· There’s grant money for those who conduct research: on the relationship between physical activity, diet, and health and factors that influence health-related behaviors; strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity; establish the prevalence, consequences, and costs of childhood obesity; and identify behaviors that contribute to obesity (Section 399X).

· There are grants for education campaigns to educate children and parents on “the health risks associated with obesity, inactivity, and poor nutrition; ways in which to incorporate physical activity into daily living; and the benefits of good nutrition and strategies to improve eating habits” (Section 399Y).

· And there’s grant money to be had for health professional education and training to identify patients with obesity or eating disorders; counsel, refer or treat them; and educate patients and their families about “effective strategies to improve their diets and appropriate levels of physical activity” (Section 399Z).

There is money in childhood obesity, but only research, education and programs promoting the government’s initiatives are eligible to receive it. And Congress has authorized “as much money as may be necessary.” The money isn’t to provide education on the real causes of obesity or on “programs to improve the health of children” as it claims. It works from the foregone conclusion that there is a childhood obesity and health crisis and it’s all about bad lifestyle behaviors: diet and exercise.

Try to imagine how much money is being put towards childhood obesity and all of the ways it could be spent that might actually better the lives, futures and health of our children.

© 2007 Sandy Szwarc

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