NCL thanks CARFAX for underwriting LifeSmarts study aid – National Consumers League

February 1, 2010

Contact: 202-835-3323,

Washington, DC – As LifeSmarts state programs heat up across the country, the National Consumers League has announced a new study aid for coaches and students prepping for competition: the Question-of-the-Day Calendar. Covering a range of subjects from health and safety to personal finance and the environment, the LifeSmarts Question-of-the-Day Calendars are underwritten by major companies, government agencies, and organizations. The February calendar, featuring practice questions with an emphasis on personal finance, was sponsored by CARFAX.

Each month, the official LifeSmarts Web site ( will feature a calendar containing dozens of retired competition questions for use as a study aid. The LifeSmarts daily calendars provide one challenge question related to the monthly topic area for each school day.

“Teachers and coaches may use the calendar questions to spur class discussion by asking one question per day, developing a mini-quiz given weekly, or running a simulated LifeSmarts competition,” said LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg. “We are grateful for CARFAX’s support in making this resource available to students and coaches as they prepare for their state competitions, vying for a chance to compete at the 2010 National LifeSmarts Championship in Miami this spring.”

LifeSmarts–the ultimate consumer challenge–is an educational opportunity that develops the consumer and marketplace knowledge and skills of teenagers in a fun way and rewards them for this knowledge. The program complements the curriculum already in place in high schools and can be used as an activity for classes, groups, clubs, and community organizations. LifeSmarts, run as a game-show style competition, is open to all teens in the U.S. in high school and middle school.

LifeSmarts topics have been chosen to encourage and reward knowledge in the areas that matter most to consumers and workers in today’s marketplace: personal finance; health and safety; the environment; technology; and consumer rights and responsibilities.

In LifeSmarts, teams of four to five teens, coached by an adult participant, compete in district and state matches with the state winners going to the national competition to vie for the national LifeSmarts title. The National Consumers League will host the 16th annual LifeSmarts National Competition in Miami Beach, Florida from April 24-27, 2010

The National Consumers League appreciates the financial support that makes LifeSmarts possible, which allows us to provide this program at no charge to teens and adult coaches. Our sponsors — community-minded businesses, associations, labor unions, government agencies, other organizations and individuals — understand the benefits of providing meaningful consumer education for young adults.


About the National Consumers League and LifeSmarts

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League. State coordinators run the programs on a volunteer basis. For more information, visit:, email, or call the National Consumers League’s communications department at 202-835-3323.

Americans going hungry a top priority for 2010 – National Consumers League

Part two of a four-part series, in which we present the food issues we anticipate will affect American consumers the most in 2010.

By Courtney Brein, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

Even in the best of times in modern-day America, amid a near-constant stream of news about the obesity rate and the overabundance of calorie-dense foods, hunger has remained a problem in American society. The current economic downturn has caused a dramatic increase in the number of Americans going hungry.

According to a USDA report on household food security in 2008, 14.6 percent of households – comprising 49 million individuals – were “food insecure” at some point during the year.  These figures reflected a sharp rise from 2007, when food insecurity affected 11.1 percent of households, or 36 million people.  And, while the statistics on household food security for 2009 are not yet available, USDA SNAP monthly data shows that the number of Americans receiving aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” rose dramatically throughout the year.  In December of 2008, nearly 32 million individuals were enrolled in SNAP – up from almost 28 million in the first month of the year.  By September of 2009 – the last month for which data is currently available – that number had risen to over 37 million.  As the New York Times reported at the end of November, one in eight Americans and, alarmingly, one in four children now rely on food stamps.  Approximately 20,000 new individuals enroll each day.  And as the discrepancy between food insecure individuals and SNAP enrollment reveals, a large portion of the population still experiences hunger, whether steadily or intermittently, without the benefit of the supplemental nutrition safety net.  Of those who do receive SNAP, approximately six million individuals rely on it as their sole source of income, according to a December New York Times article.

While the federal government continues to fund the ever-growing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and food pantries find creative ways to serve a growing number of clients despite declines in donations, it will require more than patches to the nutritional safety net to reign in hunger in the United States.  The Healthy People 2010 objectives set the goal of decreasing U.S. household food insecurity by 50 percent from the 1995 baseline of 12 percent to 6 percent in 2010.  Clearly, this was an overly ambitious goal.  In October 2008, during the presidential campaign, President Obama pledged to end childhood hunger by 2015.  As the official campaign statement noted, “The most effective way to eliminate childhood hunger and reduce hunger among adults is through a broad expansion of economic opportunity…Barack Obama understands that poverty is the primary cause of hunger and has a comprehensive plan to reduce and alleviate poverty.”  Coalitions such as the National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO) and the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger continue to provide policy recommendations and ground-level support for meeting food security objectives, but it will require that the government make a lasting, financial commitment to providing the economic opportunities and income supports necessary to permanently reduce hunger.

In a country as wealthy as ours, access to an adequate supply of nutritious food should be a basic human right.  And for those not swayed by the moral argument, there is also a strong economic argument to be made for reducing hunger, particularly among children.  As NAHO explains:

Over the past ten years, researchers have confirmed what educators, child caregivers and healthcare professionals know through observation: When children don’t get enough nutritious food, they fall behind physically, cognitively, academically, emotionally and socially.  They, their families, communities and country suffer the life-long consequences of these reduced outcomes.  Adults who experienced hunger as children have lower levels of educational and technical skills.  Ill-prepared to perform effectively in today’s jobs, they create a workforce that is less competitive…Ending childhood hunger in America will improve the health of its people while reducing short- and long-term healthcare costs, elevate the educational status of its people, and help the nation regain its workforce competitiveness and economic strength.

The ultimate goal of hunger-relief programs should not be merely to provide the necessities of life to those who need them, but to enable all consumers to be just that – individuals able to work and earn enough money to purchase food with which to feed themselves and their families.  And, while the Healthy People 2010 objective to decrease U.S. household food insecurity to 6 percent clearly will not be met, the year 2010 is nevertheless a fitting time to commit to the reduction of hunger in America.

Consumers wary of therapeutic substitution – National Consumers League

Therapeutic substitution, known also as drug switching and therapeutic interchange, is the practice of replacing a patient’s prescription drugs with chemically different drugs that are expected to have the same clinical effect. Many times patients switch to a different drug with no problems. However, for certain medications and conditions, therapeutic substitution could cause problems.

Consumers with a few specific conditions may be more likely than others to encounter a switch. Here are some of the conditions in which therapeutic substitutions may be more common, as well as the concerns about substitution expressed by some patient groups. As always, it is important to talk to your doctor about any potential therapeutic substitution.

In the lists of medicines, the Brand Name comes first, (and generic version is in parentheses).

Antidepressants stimulate chemical changes that increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for a person’s mood.

Some examples of antidepressants:
Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Celexa (citalopram), and Lexapro (escitalopram). Antidepressants are associated with drug groups known as MAOIs, tricyclics, and SSRIs and are commonly prescribed by psychiatrists and other physicians to treat depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illness.

Substitution concerns:
The American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare oppose therapeutic substitution based on the substantial risk of serious adverse outcomes in people with mental illness. These groups support policies that provide patient access to the medications their doctors think they need, and they encourage shared patient-physician decisions based on the unique needs of individuals.

Cardiovascular Medications
There are several classes of drugs used to protect your heart, monitor your cholesterol level and blood pressure, and prevent other damage.

  • ACE inhibitors are used for controlling blood pressure, treating heart failure, preventing stroke, and preventing kidney damage in people with hypertension or diabetes. They also improve survival rates in patients who have had a heart attack.
  • Examples of ACE Inhibitors include: Capoten (captopril), Vasotec (enalapril), Prinivil (lisinopril), Accupril (quinapril) and Univasc (moesxipril)
  • Statins are used to lower cholesterol levels in people at risk of developing heart disease.
  • Examples of statins include: Lipitor, Zocor (simvastatin), Crestor, Pravachol (pravastatin), Mevacor (lovastin).

Substitution concerns:
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology oppose therapeutic substitution and believe that only the prescribing doctor is equipped to determine the best drug or combination of drugs. These organizations believe that therapeutic substitution may result in the patient receiving a drug that doesn’t work well enough, produces life-threatening toxicity, or interacts dangerously with other drugs the patient is taking.

Epileptic medications
The drugs taken by patients with epilepsy are called antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and are designed to change the electrical signaling in the brain to stop or prevent seizures. 

Examples of AEDs include:

Dilantin (phenytoin), Luminal (phenobarbital), Tegretol (carbamazepine), Neurontin (gabapentin), Lamictal (lamotrigine), Gabitril, Keppra, and Zonegran (zonisamide).

Substitution concerns:
The Epilepsy Foundation is concerned that there are enough differences among AEDs that any kind of medication substitution, (including switching from brand-name to generic), could be dangerous, and it could result in less control over seizures. The Epilepsy Foundation says that changing from one drug formulation to another can usually be done successfully if the patient’s blood levels, seizures, and toxicity are carefully monitored, but it says any medication change must require the permission of the treating doctor and the patient.

Proton-pump Inhibitors
Patients with dyspepsia, peptic ulcer disease, or acid-reflux may be prescribed a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI), drugs that result in long-lasting reduction of gastric acid production.

Examples of PPIs include:

Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Nexium.

Substitution concerns:

As with any substitution, it is important to talk to your doctor, and be aware of the benefits and risks of substitution.