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House Subcommittee Examines Several Health-Related Bills

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a June 27 hearing to examine a number of bills aimed at improving the health of Americans. The subcommittee heard testimony on a number of health issues, including muscular dystrophy, juvenile diabetes, Indian health, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, tuberous sclerosis, drug and alcohol abuse, and biomedical research. At the close of the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) stated, “The reason we held this hearing is because we intend to move each and every one of these bills.”

One of the bills discussed by the subcommittee was a bill (H.R. 632) to establish an Office of Men’s Health within the Department of Health and Human Services. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA).

In discussing the statistics associated with men’s health, Dr. David Grimillion of the Men’s Health Network noted, “Men lead in each of the leading 10 categories of death and their life expectancy is 10 years less than their female counterparts.” Consequently, he stated that men “live sicker and die younger than their counterparts.”

Noting the importance of improvements in maternal and child mortality, as well as the increased availability of preventive health screening for women, Dr. Grimillion stated that men have been socialized to ignore pain and therefore do not seek treatment or preventive screening. “The silent crisis in men’s health is lack of awareness of education, screening, prevention,” he stated.

He also noted that breast cancer research has received significant increases in funding over the years, while funding for prostate cancer has lagged behind. “This disparity results from lack of advocacy at a national level,” Dr. Grimillion told the subcommittee. Noting that the establishment of the Public Health Service’s Office of Women’s Health in 1991 resulted in dramatic improvements in women’s health, Dr. Grimillion said, “It is timely to establish a similar focal point for men’s health.”

The committee did not discuss a similar bill (H.R. 1784/S. 946) that would make permanent all of the Offices of Women’s Health throughout the Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, only the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health and the office at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration are established by statute. Other agencies, such as the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration currently have either offices or women’s health coordinators, but they are not permanently authorized. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD).

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