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#SubHealth Reviews Four Bipartisan Bills to Advance Public Health

May 17, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), today held a hearing examining four bipartisan bills to advance public health.


Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) speaks in support of H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017, which he authored.

Mr. Kevin B. O’Connor, Assistant to the General President, International Association of Fire Fighters, spoke in support of H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017, which would require the CDC to develop and maintain a registry to collect data regarding the incidence of cancer in firefighters.

Talking about his own experience as a fire fighter and his battle with prostate cancer, Mr. O’Connor said, “I have suspicions that my cancer is the direct result of my years within the fire service. My father is healthy at 85 and has never experienced cancer. …Today, I am happy to report that my prostate cancer was surgically removed and I am healthy. …Collecting data on a national basis will permit scientists to conduct more comprehensive studies correcting the shortcomings of previous studies, and I am confident that this registry will be the catalyst to better cancer prevention measures in the future.”

Full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) highlighted the important work of his local firefighters. “In Oregon, we know the bravery of our first responders not only for traditional firefighting, but also in the west for the kind of fires we get in the summers in our forest where they face intense smoke and flames, and are frequently breathing in dangerous fumes and carcinogens on the job. This is really important legislation and while we know somewhat about the cancer risks, we don’t know everything we need to know.”

Dr. Martin S. Levine, Interim Clinical Dean, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, spoke in support of H.R. 1876, the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act of 2017, saying that it would “help provide professional health care volunteers with much-needed certainty when serving as volunteers during federally-declared disasters.” Recalling his work as a volunteer in the Elite Athlete Recovery Area at the Boston Marathon for the last 18 years, he highlighted the April 2013 bombing.

Dr. Levine recalled, “As one of the first responders at the site of the first blast, I saw blood everywhere and dozens of victims on the ground with severe wounds, mostly below the waist. Many of the victims were missing lower limbs and bleeding profusely, so I and the other responders improvised tourniquets with our belts and identification badge lanyards to staunch the bleeding. … In seconds, we had gone from helping runners recover from the race, to treating spectators with severe trauma – horrific injuries inflicted by a bomb. The medical team at the Boston Marathon is always prepared to treat mass casualties, just not with the type of wounds we saw on that day.”


Dr. Levine gives his opening statement as the other #SubHealth witnesses listen.

Dr. Jordan Greenbaum, Medical Director, Institute for Healthcare and Human Trafficking, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, spoke in support of H.R. 767, the SOAR to Health and Wellness Act of 2017, saying, the bill “would address the critical need for training of health care providers, enabling them to recognize victims and provide culturally appropriate, trauma-informed, and victim-centered care.”

Chairman Burgess echoed Dr. Greenbaum’s comments, stating, “A reported 68 percent of trafficking victims end up in a health care setting at some point, and this can serve as an important chance for providers to step in and help. Having spent nearly three decades practicing medicine, I know that feeling prepared to handle such a difficult situation requires adequate training and protocols. However, the vast majority of providers do not have access to such resources.”

Further explaining the need for the bill, Dr. Greenbaum stated, “Despite the criminal nature of human trafficking and the desire of traffickers to elude detection, research consistently shows that victims do have contact with medical professionals. …But we also know that victims rarely self-identify when seeking medical care and may even deny victimization out of fear of the trafficker, lack of perception of their victim status, shame, or humiliation.”

Dr. Cheryl D. Watson-Lowry, DDS, American Dental Association, spoke in support of H.R. 2422, the Action for Dental Health (ADH) Act of 2017 stating, “the bill will allow organizations to qualify for oral health grants to support activities that improve oral health education and dental disease prevention and develop and expand outreach programs that facilitate establishing dental homes for children and adults, including the elderly, blind and disabled.”

For more information on todays hearing, including a background memo, witness testimony, and archived webcast, click HERE.

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