Cancer death rate is falling, but we still have work to do – National Consumers League

Janay JohnsonHave you or someone you love been affected by cancer? Chances are the answer is yes. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, and knows no boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, gender, or wealth. More than 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with the disease this year alone, while over 600,000 people are estimated to die from it.

Nonetheless, the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) new report, Cancer Statistics 2018, shows that the cancer death rate in the United States has maintained a steady rate of decline, plummeting 26 percent since its peak in 1991 – translating to 2.4 million fewer cancer deaths over the last quarter century. This progress is largely driven by sharp declines in mortality rates in the four most common types of cancer – lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate. Conjointly, innovations in cancer treatment, better early detection and management practices, and a societal reduction in tobacco use have also played a role in this statistical shift.

Despite this good news, ACS’ report also reveals that, though narrowing, disparities in cancer mortality rates with respect to gender, race, and age still exist. Fundamental differences in the types of cancers men and women develop, and higher rates of smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and other cancer-related factors in men have created a huge gender gap – with the death rate for men 40 percent higher than that of women. Racial disparities are even more pervasive. Though the overall racial disparity in cancer death rates is decreasing, blacks still have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial group in the United States for the majority of cancers. Black men have an overall cancer death rate 24 percent higher than that of white men, and in fact, have the highest death rate of any other group. Black women, despite having lower cancer incidence rates than white women, have a cancer death rate 14 percent higher than their white counterparts. Beyond that, the racial disparities for some cancers, notably breast, are actually increasing. When accounting for age, the disparity in the death rates of blacks and whites 65 and older is significantly smaller than the disparity in death rates of blacks and whites under 65 – which is likely attributable to a higher proportion of insured Americans in the Medicare population.

Socioeconomic disparities, reflecting a lack of access to health care, work opportunities, wealth, education, and social support networks, are at the root of many of the disparities in cancer mortality. These social determinants of health are all indicators of whether an individual might have access to cancer prevention resources, early detection, or quality cancer treatment. Lack of health insurance, or underinsurance creates a barrier to comprehensive healthcare and increases the likelihood of later stage cancer diagnosis, when treatment is often more intense, costly, and frankly less successful.

If we are to continue the progress we have made in lowering the death rate of this horrible disease, we must recognize that it is as inextricably linked to policy as it is to one day finding a cure. The National Consumers League continues to advocate to preserve the consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including preventing discrimination based on preexisting conditions, ending annual and lifetime limits on essential health benefits, and removing co-pays for key cancer prevention and early detection services like mammograms and colonoscopies. NCL also advocates to protect Medicaid, which puts health coverage within reach for the most vulnerable and disenfranchised among us. We all have a critical role to play in saving lives from cancer – and it starts with promoting good health in our communities, ensuring every consumer has access to quality and affordable health care, and improving the quality of life for every consumer and their families.

President’s Day: A time to celebrate two great men and modern medicine – National Consumers League

Happy President’s Day! Given who is currently sitting in the White House, let’s change the subject and celebrate modern medicine as it affected the two American Presidents we are celebrating this holiday. Reading the news this week about the flu virus, I was reminded about how lucky we are in 2017 to avoid the scourge of infectious disease that afflicted both Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of my favorite presidents and the two this holiday is named for. 

As the flu season is in full tilt and a deadly one this year, if I had a nickel for every person who said, “I don’t get a flu shot because I think it gives you the flu,” I’d be a millionaire. No, flu shots don’t make you sick; and though they say the flu shot this year is only 36 percent effective, I’ll take those odds. According to reports, an estimated 4,000 people have died this year. The vast majority haven’t been vaccinated.

A headline in The Washington Post this week was overly grim. The article was great but the headline was misleading, focusing on the 36 percent statistic.

Read deeper and you find that administering the flu shot in children younger than 9 offers much greater protection to them, reducing by more than half the risk of becoming so sick that they need to see a doctor. That data comes against the backdrop of at least 63 kids dying from flu since October 1. As in past winter flu seasons, about three-quarters of children who have died were not fully vaccinated, officials said. That is critically important information for parents! My headline would have read:

Flu shot provides unusually high protection to children this year

This tracks with history. A new analysis of seasonal flu deaths in U.S. children in the six seasons since the 2009 pandemic found that children ages 2 and younger are most at risk. Of the children who died during those years, less than a third had been vaccinated. In other words, vaccination gives your kids a much better chance of fighting the virus.

But back to my favorite presidents—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Washington would have lived longer—and Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln would not have been so terribly broken by the deaths of their young children from typhoid fever—had they been living today. Now, thanks to modern medicine, we get a shot that protects us from typhoid fever. NCL history tracks similar tragedy. Florence Kelley, NCL’s first general secretary, wrote often about the deaths of her siblings in the late 1800s, calling them the “dark days of diphtheria.” Today we get a shot to prevent diphtheria.

George Washington, it turns out, suffered from a host of infectious diseases in his lifetime. “There are many points before and after the Revolutionary War when he could have died,” said Dr. Howard Markel, director of University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine. “He was really quite ill, even when he was president.” Today, Washington would have had a preventive shot for diphtheria and taken antibiotics for the tonsillitis that likely killed him at the ripe old age of 67; his body was weakened by fending off infectious disease after disease.

So consumers, don’t let anyone tell you NOT to get the flu shot—and don’t believe the urban myth: it will NOT give you the flu. There’s nothing the shot will do but increase your odds—and those of your children—from succumbing to the virulent virus. The Presidents we celebrate this week would have relished this chance to stave off disease. Let’s appreciate all that they did for America and at the same time thank modern medicine for the leaps and bounds we’ve made in fighting deadly infectious diseases.

Collaboration to educate consumers: ‘Always a treat’ – National Consumers League

As conversation hearts and boxes of chocolates start to appear across America this week, we’re reminded that candy plays a very special role in our celebration of Valentine’s Day.

We found some recent developments in the confectioner industry worthy of note this Valentine’s Day.

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has joined with the Partnership for a Healthier America to provide consumers with more information about their favorite treats. Known as the Always A Treat Initiative, this is a 5-year collaboration to focus on transparency, portion guidance and choice, and consumer education.

NCA says that, over the next few years, consumers will begin to see more chocolate and candy options in smaller pack sizes, along with new products and more front-of-pack calorie labels. And, they tell us, many of those choices will be 200 calories or less. That’s a positive development. 

The data show that consumers enjoy candy about two or three times per week and average around 40 calories per day from chocolate and candy items. Sounds about right. I’m an “everything-in-moderation” believer myself, and as someone with a serious sweet tooth, a little candy goes a long way in satisfying my craving for sweets.

Providing more information and adaption to consumer demand makes sense for the industry. 

NCL likes the confectioner industry’s collaboration with PHA and the investment they are making in programs to help consumers to make better and healthier choices for themselves and their families. So enjoy the sweet treats that come with this holiday, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

On MLK Day, leadership needed more than ever – National Consumers League

Sally GreenbergToday, January 15, 2018, marks the 35th anniversary of national celebration of the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As King’s widow Coretta Scott King observed, “This is not a black holiday; it is a people’s holiday,” She spoke these words after President Ronald Reagan signed the King Holiday Bill into law on Nov. 2, 1983.

She couldn’t have known how prescient her words were and that Dr. King’s message of love and tolerance is needed in America more than ever. King was a brilliant scholar, a gifted orator, and a bridge builder who reached across ethnic, religious, and racial lines to lift all downtrodden Americans and challenge long-held prejudices.

But in 2018, we are marking the first year in office of President Donald Trump, who was elected on a platform of overt appeals to racism and white supremacy and continues to invoke vulgar and crass language in discussions about race and gender. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: on the campaign trail, Trump said Mexicans are “murderers and rapists” and described African American neighborhoods as “more dangerous than the war zones.”

Just last week, on the eve of MLK Day, we got wind of his latest firebomb. In a series of overtly racist comments, in a public meeting with members of Congress, Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers gathered in the Oval Office, and while discussing protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa, Trump apparently said – and I say apparently because it’s hard to imagine a U.S. President uttering these words: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” and “Why do we need more Haitians? ….Take them out.” He followed that up with the suggestion that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway. White people, in other words.

What a wrenching time this is for America. We have a massive leadership vacuum in the White House and in Congress; indeed, while many Democrats denounced Trump’s comments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and GOP chair Ronna McDaniel were silent. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called Trump’s comments “very unfortunate,” and Sen. Marco Rubio posted a long Twitter thread about the many ways Haitians have made an impact in the United States.

And while some Republicans at the meeting denied hearing the comments, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — who also attended the meeting — confirmed that the media’s reporting of Trump’s remarks was “basically accurate.” But only Sen. Graham told Trump his comments were unacceptable.

Fighting racism and bigotry used to be seen as a bipartisan cause. The National Consumers League’s history is one of championing racial equality; Florence Kelley participated in the founding meetings of the NAACP and worked with another republican icon, President Teddy Roosevelt, who had some old-fashioned ideas on race but did warn that “the debasement of the blacks will in the end carry with it [the] debasement of the whites.”

When President Ronald Reagan, a Republican icon, signed the MLK bill into law, he gave an eloquent speech citing King’s contributions:

…traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… Thank you, God bless you, and I will sign it. 

President Reagan finished with this:

All right-thinking people, all right-thinking Americans are joined in spirit with us this day as the highest recognition which this nation gives is bestowed upon Martin Luther King, Jr., one who also was the recipient of the highest recognition which the world bestows, the Nobel Peace Prize.

This eloquent and bipartisan message is more important today than ever. I only wish Republican leaders take note of the bold statement their iconic President made 35 years ago when he established this the MLK Jr. holiday and mark his commitment to racial justice and equality for all Americans.

For the Children’s Health Insurance Program, no news is NOT good news – National Consumers League

92_johnson-300.jpgSince its enactment in 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage for low-income children, has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress and in turn, been reauthorized regularly without issue–until now. It’s been more than two months since the September 30 deadline to reauthorize CHIP came and went without any Congressional action. While lawmakers maintain that CHIP will be reauthorized eventually, for the nine million children and pregnant women that rely on the program for their healthcare, “eventually” may be too late.

Like so much else in our current political climate, this lapse in CHIP funding is unprecedented. With Congressional Republicans hard-pressed for a legislative victory before year’s end, CHIP will likely continue to take a back seat to other must-pass measures such as tax reform and the government spending package. In the meantime, many states are scrambling to find funds to keep CHIP running. As of now, emergency reserves and temporary funding agreements have allowed states to maintain coverage for the millions of Americans who might otherwise be uninsured, but these short-term fixes are not sustainable. In fact, medical officials in some states have already sent notices to families informing them their coverage is in danger of being disrupted. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 16 states are projected to deplete their federal CHIP funding by January 2018, and another 32 will exhaust their funds by March 2018.

Should Congress not renew CHIP, the response to the loss of federal funds will vary based upon how CHIP is implemented in that particular state. For states whose CHIP programs are funded through Medicaid expansion, they are still required to cover those beneficiaries, regardless of federal funding. However, with the cost burden shifted completely to state governments, funding for other critical programs such as infrastructure or education will likely be redirected. On the other hand, for the 1.2 million beneficiaries in states with CHIP programs not married to Medicaid, they are likely to lose coverage completely. At that point, families would have to seek more expensive employer-based or marketplace alternatives–but of course, there is no guarantee that they will be able to afford those options.

Despite the lack of urgency in Washington, state governors around the nation are urging Congress to read the writing on the wall. On December 12, a bipartisan group of 12 governors signed a letter to Congressional leaders imploring them to work across the aisle to find a solution that will provide funding for CHIP without a disruption in coverage for its millions of beneficiaries. The inaction by Congress in reauthorizing this vital program has not only already costed hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, but has caused unwarranted chaos and stress for states and families. Moreover, ensuring children have access to regular doctor visits, immunizations, essential prescription medications, and emergency services should not be a partisan issue or a bargaining chip. We have made historic progress in decreasing the number of uninsured children and ultimately improving their health outcomes–much to the credit of enrollment in CHIP. There is no question that if CHIP is not reauthorized, we will undo much of this success.

We must not leave farmworker women out of the harassment discussion – National Consumers League

norma.jpgNorma Flores López is a member of the National Consumers League’s Board of Directors. She is also the Governance and Collaboration/Development Manager of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project.

Today’s headlines and top hashtags are showing that a powerful movement is building, and its being led by women.

Women–fed up with the constant attack on our bodies, the sexual harassment prevalent throughout our communities and centuries-long inequities in our homes, at the workplace and in the voting booth– are saying, “Enough.” They are displaying courage by organizing, sharing their powerful stories, casting their votes, and creating an effect that can be felt in the halls of Congress, on the movie sets of Hollywood, and through the airwaves. This movement against misogyny and sexual harassment is indeed powerful. It has made influential men step down from their long-held positions of power, it has stopped an accused pedophile from being elected into the Senate, and even made it to the cover of Time magazine.

And we’re just getting started.

We have seen this type of grassroots movement before–a seismic shift in the power paradigm of society, moving us closer and closer towards equity. Yet, we have never achieved the full promise of equality. The work is left halfway done, and we can’t allow this to happen again. We need to make sure that the movement is able to reach the darkest corners of society, in the marginalized communities where the most vulnerable women work and live.

For me, this is in the fields.

I grew up in a migrant farmworker family, where I was taught at a young age the power men held over me. Sexual harassment wasn’t the only kind we experienced. The boss had the power to protect me, but also the power to destroy me. A lifetime of hard work earned my father a position of leadership in most of the fields we worked in, which he used to protect his wife and five daughters. While most women endured cat calls, inappropriate prepositions and harassment, we were spared. Still, we knew the dangers that lurked out there and took no chances. My sisters and I never walked to the portable bathrooms (when they were available) by ourselves, making sure a few of us were always together. We never went anywhere by ourselves, in the fields or on the migrant camp. Ever.

While my father did his best to shield us from these dangers, there were seasons that he wasn’t in charge and our family was separated. We were divided into different teams, each completing different tasks in different fields at any given moment. My mother and I mostly stuck together, and for years, we were in a team under the charge of a middle-aged white man who spoke no Spanish and made it known that he didn’t want to be there. As the season wore on, the work days got longer and his temper got shorter. He became a terror to all of the women working with him. It boiled over and from one day to the next, I became the focus of his fury. I was responsible for the team not completing the work at the pace he wanted. I was responsible for the mistakes made by my teammates. I was responsible for everything that went wrong in the fields. For all of this, I deserved his abuse. He began to hurl insults, curse words, and racial slurs on a daily basis, often at the top of his lungs for everyone in the fields to hear. My mother would stare at me in disbelief and fear, desperate to understand what was happening and to understand his English. “¿Qué te dice, Norma? ¿Qué pasa? (What is he saying? What’s happening?)” she would repeatedly ask me. “Nada, mami,” I would reply, trying to hide the hurt and fear in my voice.

He would often end his tirade with, “You can’t even do field work. What the f**k are you even good for? NOTHING.”

He made me feel worthless and helpless.

I knew that although I was miserable, my family was treated well by everyone else in that company and we were getting paid better than we had in other states where we worked. I knew that if I spoke up, we would get fired and end up homeless and stranded. I knew it would devastate my family financially for the rest of the year–possibly even longer. I knew I didn’t want to be responsible for this, and believed that if I just tried harder, he would leave me alone. I knew that I didn’t have it as bad as other women in the fields.

Women, who make up about 700,000 of the workers in American agriculture, are living in desperate poverty that leaves them especially vulnerable to assault and harassment. Situations can range from groping and propositions, all the way to systemic rape, and it often all goes unseen and unreported. They endure this in silence because they often don’t have any recourse, they are threatened, and their families depend of their incomes to put food on the table. Like in many other industries, the majority of the power in the fields is held by men–individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten the economic, physical and emotional security of women.

In a 2010 study from the University of California, Santa Cruz, more than 60 percent of the 150 female farmworkers interviewed said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. In a 2012 report, Human Rights Watch surveyed 52 female farmworkers–nearly all of them had experienced sexual violence or knew others who had. One woman told investigators that her workplace was called the “field de calzón,” or “field of panties.” As an Iowa immigrant farmworker told her lawyer, “We thought it was normal in the United States that in order to keep your job, you had to have sex.”

Two decades ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, along with California Rural Legal Assistance, a legal service program that promotes the interests of migrant laborers and the rural poor, created a joint project to concentrate on sexual harassment in the fields. In 2005, the commission won a $994,000 victory for Olivia Tamayo, a worker at one of California’s largest cattle-feeding operations, who was repeatedly raped by her supervisor. “He took advantage because he knew I wasn’t going to say anything,” she told Ms. Magazine. “It was a trauma that followed me everywhere.

In September of 2016, in one of the largest settlements of its kind, the commission won over $17 million for five farmworkers in Florida who had accused their supervisors of rape and harassment. Some 18 similar cases nationally after 2009 have given women farmworkers $4 million.

State and federal policies rob farmworkers of workplace protections that other American workers benefit from. They are not given the right to organize and are exempted from protections against retaliation. This leaves families, especially women, vulnerable to workplace abuses, which are seen as part of the business. In the fields, the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality allows for abuses of power to become common place. It leaves the women who work every day to feed America feeling worthless and helpless, and robs them of their dignity.

We are reminded by history’s leaders that our greatness is measured by how we treat those in greatest need. It is not enough that our celebrities and middle class women are able to see their perpetrators held accountable for their abusive behavior. We must not leave the hardest work undone. We need to ensure this attention extends into the fields and all places that are out of sight to most of America, places where our women –the poor, the undocumented, the women of color—face this abuse daily and have been fighting back for years.

We can start by supporting the work of LCLAA’s Trabajadoras Program, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, and CIW’s Women’s Group, to name a few. We can also remind leaders in the movement not to leave out our farmworker women from the discussion.

It is our unity that makes us stronger. We are all in this fight together, and as history has shown us, together, women can make a real difference. Let’s make sure that we finish the work we have started.

We are powerful.

Holiday shopping? Some strategies to consider if you are concerned about child labor – National Consumers League

maki.jpgWith the holidays approaching and many Americans scrambling to buy presents, we get many questions from consumers who are interested in shopping responsibly. Newly released data suggests that there are about 40 million individuals in forced labor and 152 million children who are trapped in child labor around the world today. How can one avoid buying products that may contribute to this rampant exploitation?

Unfortunately, there is no clear and simple answer. The supply chains of many companies have multiple layers of production–even reaching into people’s homes—and it’s extremely difficult to monitor this work at all the levels.

Fortunately, there are some tools out there to help consumers make responsible holiday shopping decisions. One of the best is the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Sweat and Toil” mobile app. It informs consumers about 130+ goods that are produced with child labor or forced labor. It will also tell consumers which countries produce those goods and ranks those countries on how well their efforts to reduce child labor are going. You can access this information by clicking here. More than 1,000 pages of valuable information are contained on the site.

If you are about to go clothes shopping, you can quickly look up which countries have been identified as producing clothes with child labor: Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, and Vietnam. Seven countries used forced labor to produce garments—you’ll have to go to the site or use the app to figure out which ones. It’s actually remarkably easy to use. Please download the “Sweat and Toil” app now—before you forget!

The site and app will help you learn some of the most common products of child labor. Gold, for example, is produced by child mining in 21 countries. Cotton or cottonseed in 18 countries. Coffee is produced by child labor in 16 countries. The data, unfortunately has some limitations. For the most part, it does not list assembled products. For example, many of the metals and minerals that power your smartphone and the batteries that help it work are on the list, but assembled cell phones are not.

We get a lot of questions about product labeling. Why can’t consumers buy a product labeled “child-labor free?” GoodWeave, a nonprofit member of the Child Labor Coalition, issues labels that help consumers buy carpets (and other products coming soon) that are child-labor free. GoodWeave has strict standards and inspection systems, that reach every worker from the factory to village to home. When they find child labor they eliminate it and provide remediation and long-term rehabilitation for the former child laborers. Their programs go well beyond others, ensuring communities across South Asia are “child friendly” and that all children are going to school and learning. It wasn’t that long ago that there were one million children weaving hand-made carpets under slave-like conditions. That number today is believed to be less than 200,000. GoodWeave has transformed the lives of thousands of children in partnership with over 150 brands and retailers. In a few years, we may have several more product lines that we can say with some certainty are child-labor free.

It wasn’t that long ago that there were one million children weaving hand-made carpets under slave-like conditions. That number today is believed to be less than 250,000. The “GoodWeave” label is helping consumers buy carpets that are child-labor free. Goodweave, a nonprofit member of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), has set up extensive monitoring systems and when they find child labor they eliminate it and provide remediation services for the former child laborers. GoodWeave has transformed the lives of thousands of children and is planning to expand their labelling program to other products. In a few years, we may have several more products that we can say with some certainty that they are child-labor free.

We ask consumers to educate themselves about the intersection of consumer goods and child exploitation. We ask them to support companies that are taking the extra step to eliminate child labor and forced labor. One company that we know well is Divine Chocolate. It works with farmer cooperatives in West Africa to produce Fairtrade chocolate, from locally produced cocoa. Farmers actually own a major share of this company and earn more income which, along with other measures, helps them avoid the use child labor which is rampant in the region’s cocoa production.

We’re a fan of Fairtrade America, also a member of the CLC, because it pays a premium price to farmers for engaging in better labor and environmental practices. Helping farmers prevent child labor and forced labor is one its stated goals and addressing endemic poverty is clearly part of the solution, thanks to committed companies and consumers like you. The incredible difficulty of monitoring remote farms, often hidden under jungle canopies, makes it difficult to say with certainty if products are produced without child labor. But, we love that groups are tackling this issue and working hard with farmers at finding solutions. Fairtrade embraces a “continuous improvement” model as it pursues its goal of child-labor and forced-labor free products.

Patagonia is one of several companies that are taking extra steps to produce products through a clean supply chain. How do consumers find such companies? We recommend checking out the efforts of individual companies online to ensure products are produced responsibly and that workers, including children, are not exploited.

We love that when they became aware of rampant child labor and forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields, many apparel companies began signing the “cotton pledge” promising to avoid buying Uzbek cotton for their clothing. To date, more than 270 companies have made this promise. We generally do not support the use of boycotts, which can lead to deprivation for impoverished rural communities, but when state-sponsored forced labor is in play, we make an exception.

We should note that it’s important that consumers have a critical eye when researching companies, because, as many advocates have noted, some companies talk about “corporate social responsibility (CSR)” but their efforts may not go far enough to address issues of child and forced labor. It can be difficult for consumers to tell the difference between CSR efforts that are “window-dressing” versus those that are substantive.

We also ask consumers to support legislation that helps address the problem. In 2012, California passed the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which requires large companies to post information online about their efforts to fight human trafficking, slavery, and child labor if the companies are, in fact, engaged in those efforts. The legislation is not a panacea, but it is an important step in the right direction. The CLC and its members have worked on federal legislation that would do the same thing. Unfortunately, the bill has not been re-introduced in the current Congress. We need consumers to call their member of Congress and tell them how important such initiatives are. In the Netherlands, legislation is being considered that would require companies to remove child slavery and child labor from their supply chains—not just report on efforts.

We dream of a day when consumers will be armed with the knowledge they need to make informed shopping decisions and that child labor will become a thing of the past. We ask for your help in bringing about these goals by expressing your concerns to retailers and supporting existing efforts. When consumers make it clear that they expect products to be produced without the taint of child labor and child slavery, we believe companies will work harder to achieve that goal.

Reid Maki is the Director of Child Labor Advocacy for the National Consumers League, America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization; he also coordinates the Child Labor Coalition, which NCL co-chairs. The CLC includes 38 groups fighting to reduce child labor in the U.S. and abroad.

LifeSmarts enlists high school students as OTC medicine safety mentors – National Consumers League

hertzberg-1.jpgThis blog was originally published on

We are excited to launch a new community service project today: the LifeSmarts OTC Medicine Safety Mentoring Project, which provides materials and curriculum that are bolstered by educational resources produced by Scholastic.

Studies have found that children as young as 10 and 11 begin self-administering OTC medicines. Our new outreach effort equips high school students with tools they can use to mentor younger children to be safe in their use and storage of OTC medicines.

  • High School focus: Classroom lessons, study materials for the 2017-18 competition, and resources to prepare high school students to educate 5th and 6th graders.
  • Middle School focus: Materials designed to be used with 5th and 6th graders and taught by LifeSmarts high school student mentors.
  • Community focus: Community-engagement activities offer fun, fast ways to engage with parents, children, and the community at large.

The LifeSmarts OTC Medicine Safety Mentoring Project represents strong partnerships, which drive everything we do here at LifeSmarts. We are gratified to work with dedicated educators seeking current consumer lessons for the classroom, competitive coaches looking for every advantage in preparing their teams for online and live competition, and enthusiastic student participants with a strong sense of community involvement. We are also gratified to have the support and encouragement of our funding partner, McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

We know LifeSmarts gives students the skills they need to succeed as adults, and we know students are eager to apply what they learn at home and in their communities. We have seen LifeSmarts students embrace the Safety Smart project, conduct food waste audits with gusto, and produce creative PSAs to educate their peers. We are excited to present students and coaches with this community outreach effort and see where they will take it!

As LifeSmarts celebrates “The Year of Health and Safety” in 2017-18 we will continue to give special focus throughout the year to health and safety lessons, learning activities, special projects, and new opportunities.

NCL encouraged by FDA Commissioner Gottlieb’s comments on Alzheimer’s Disease guidance development – National Consumers League

In August 2017, the National Consumers League, WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s, AARP, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, and several other women’s health advocacy organizations met with Dr. Janet Woodcock, FDA’s Director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), to discuss treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). 


We requested this meeting because of concerns about Alzheimer’s disproportionately affecting women, with two-thirds of the patients diagnosed and the vast majority of caregivers being female, and the unfortunate fact that no new treatments for this terrible disease have been developed and approved in the past 15 years.   

The group discussed the need for updating the agency’s Guidance on AD, and Dr. Woodcock indicated that this Guidance would be a good candidate for review. We were pleased that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, speaking at the September 13, 2017 Blueprint for Breakthroughs meeting sponsored by Friends of Cancer Research (FOCR) and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, confirmed the agency’s intent to revise the Guidance on AD.   

As reported in The Pink Sheet, the FDA Commissioner made the following observations at the FOCR meeting: 

  • We don’t have as many disease-specific guidelines as you would expect on the new drug side.
  • The FDA is planning a revised guidance on Alzheimer’s drug development, part of a broader reform of the Office of New Drugs (OND).
  • The OND development is being spearheaded by Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Director Dr. Janet Woodcock.  As Acting Director of OND, Dr. Woodcock is moving to implement policy and structural changes for OND, including re-evaluating the division-by-division staffing model to determine whether staff can be trained to move between review divisions as needs arise.  Dr. Woodcock has cited the need for more policy development, including guidance documents, to ensure that product sponsors receive the most up-to-date advice.
  • As part of the OND revamp, Gottlieb said, “we want to develop more time for reviewers to work on specific guidance documents that will help address certain aspects of the review process where we think that the science has evolved to a point where we want to create more modern standards.” 
  • The disease-specific guidance writing effort is an attempt to go back and look at diseases where there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in different aspects of clinical development, where the FDA  hasn’t articulated principles, with the forthcoming documents addressing issues such as use of different trial designs and endpoints. 
  • The guidance-writing initiative is intended to articulate modern evidentiary and clinical trial design expectations in specific disease areas where the science has evolved. 
  • The goal, Gottlieb said, is to “create more incentives for people to try to attack these unmet medical needs because we have clear direction that they can shoot against.”
  • Gottlieb explained: The new Alzheimer’s guidance will “look at some of the new modalities and points that could become maybe not a primary endpoint, but perhaps secondary and tertiary endpoints, or how you look at cognitive function versus performance as different endpoints. Those are now dual endpoints in a lot of clinical studies.”  With the guidance writing effort, “there’s going to be some things that we’re going to update because the science has changed.  In most cases, we’re doing these things anyway now in terms of how we’re thinking about these different therapeutic areas, but we just haven’t had the opportunity to articulate the standards in guidance, and that’s what this exercise is for.”

Our coalition is very appreciative of Dr. Woodcock’s time and accessibility for discussion of these issues. Her leadership is renowned. We also appreciate FDA Commissioner Gottlieb’s commitment to developing Guidances to ensure more clarity and direction as the medical and scientific community works to develop safe, effective, and affordable treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and so many others.

The not-so-secret war on consumer protection – National Consumers League

SG_headshot_92_2017.jpgThis blog post was originally published in the Huffington Post.

While the public is laser-focused on the fate of healthcare, consumer advocates are watching with horror as Congress works to unravel, piece by piece, many long-standing consumer protections, taking actions that favor big industry over the little guy. With the backing of industry, federal legislators are attacking rules that protect seniors from ripoffs and scams and blocking agencies from using their powers to prevent illegal activity or set sensible safety standards.

Case in point: a bill that recently passed House Appropriations, pushed by the multi-billion dollar direct selling industry, essentially ties the hands of the Federal Trade Commission, preventing the agency from policing illegal pyramid schemes. Without the ability to investigate and shut down these fraudulent businesses, which target low-income and minority Americans, these notorious hucksters will run wild.

Similarly, in May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) adopted rules to curb forced arbitration to ensure that consumers have the right to go to court instead of being forced into private arbitration controlled by businesses—a right companies already have. When a data breach at Home Depot in 2014 led to losses for banks nationwide, these banks filed a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation. Companies have the choice of taking legal action together, yet consumers are frequently blocked from exercising the same legal right when they believe that companies have wronged them.

The CFPB’s new rules will change that, but House leaders are now trying to block the CFPB rule, doing the bidding of corporate wrongdoers like Bank of America. What’s worse, the bankers’ friends in Congress are bullying the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, and threatening to fire him despite his record of returning more than $12 billion to consumers.

Even common-sense safety rules are not immune to this assault. Take, for example, the humble table saw. These mainstays of high school shop classes and hobbyists’ workshops are responsible for more than 11 finger amputations every day and 35,000 emergency room visits annually. Earlier this year, after years of study, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed a new safety standard using proven technology that would totally prevent these injuries. Rather than embrace this revolutionary development, House appropriators, at the behest of the power saw industry, attached a rider saying the CPSC cannot work on table saw safety at all! This is akin to telling the Food and Drug Administration it cannot regulate drug safety or telling the Department of Defense it can’t deploy troops. Unfortunately, industry and its allies in Congress smell blood and, with their corporate backers, no consumer protection is safe from attack.

The list of industry targets could fill a book, from rolling back broadband privacy protections, to supporting the airlines’ power grab of our air traffic control system. What’s alarming is that this unprecedented attack on consumer protections is happening out of public view. That’s too bad, because the public needs to know about this full-on assault and who is behind it. Industry is calling the shots and writing the bills, and leadership in the House and Senate is doing what they ask. The irony is that survey after survey shows that consumers actually want sensible safety and health protections, including safe products for themselves and their children.

Americans want regulators to shut down illegal financial schemes and frauds, and they expect their members of Congress to side with them, not with big corporations. That’s why groups like NCL are urging every consumer to tell Congress to back off efforts to kill the critical rules and protections that millions of us depend on every day.