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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

CRN HEALTH CARE REFORM RECOMMENDATIONS BEING FORWARDED TO CONGRESS the week of April 26, the Council for Responsible Nutrition said. The two-page document entitled "Recommendations to the President's Task Force on National Health Care Reform," also will be circulated to policy makers in the executive branch, the scientific and academic communities, as well as to the media and trade. Originally presented to a hearing of the health care reform task force in Washington, D.C. on March 29, the recommendations outline the central tenets behind CRN's advocacy of using supplemental vitamins and minerals in disease prevention. Noting that "today, less than 3% of the nation's health budget is allocated for prevention," CRN stated that "resources and imagination need to be applied to preventing disease." CRN complained that "FDA ushered out the previous administration with a set of final regulations on health claims, including disapproval of a health claim regarding folic acid and neural tube defects. This represents a massive lost opportunity for prevention, which the Clinton Administration can correct." At a recent meeting, the Folic Acid Subcommittee of FDA's Food Advisory Committee recommended that the agency allow health claims stating that daily intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid can reduce the risk of conceiving a child with neural tube defects ("The Tan Sheet" April 19, p. 3). Among components that "should be included as part of any health care reform package" is the official recognition of "the new base of scientific knowledge linking nutrition to disease prevention," CRN asserted. The council also asked that a health care reform package "acknowledge that health claims on labels can help educate the public about the role nutrients can play in preventing chronic disease" and that a "new Public Health Service policy on the optimal application of nutrition, including nutritional supplements," be developed. CRN expressed concern about the federal government's refusal to allow "welfare recipients, including millions of elderly men and women, [to buy] dietary supplements with food stamps"; and about FDA's reluctance to allow health claims for nutritional supplements that contain vitamin C and beta carotene. CRN maintains "that the evidence is good enough to approve a health claim in food labeling regarding the cancer-preventing potential of eating lots of fruits and vegetables high" in those vitamins. CRN emphasized that its recommendations are intended to suggest policy changes, and not to request new government programs or expenditures on supplements. The organization also highlighted the need for greater education on the health benefits of supplemental calcium, antioxidant vitamins and folic acid. CRN remarked that "there is no silver bullet, but there is a potential for great good and for substantial health care cost reduction through the responsible use of nutritional supplements, combined with other healthy habits." Apart from its own recommendations, CRN supports a position paper called "Prevention is Basic to Health Reform," which was crafted by attendees of a November 1992 meeting sponsored by the Partnership for Prevention, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization founded "to increase prevention's priority in national health policy and practice," according to the group. The Partnership for Prevention presented the position paper to the health care reform task force on April 14 and is currently distributing it to all members of Congress, the executive branch and state governors. CRN also endorses a report titled "The Role of Prevention in Health Care Reform," which was developed by public health organizations including the American Public Health Association and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. The report was forwarded to Congress and the administration in early February.

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