A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.
The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.
Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.
William R. Steiger is no ordinary “loyal Bushie,” however. According to the National Review of Medicine, he is George Bush Sr.’s godson. This also isn’t the first time he’s used his position to favor politics over science:
In a leaked confidential letter to the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Lee Jong-Wook, the US government has rejected decades of nutritional research and denied that there is any evidence of a link between junk food and obesity. The letter, from William R Steiger, special assistant at the Department of Health and Human Services and godson to George Bush Sr, is the United States' official response to an April 2003 report by the WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The report was released last spring, prompting American food manufacturers' groups to begin frantic lobbying in Washington. The Sugar Association wrote to Gro Harlem Brundtland, then WHO director-general, threatening to "exercise every avenue available to expose the dubious nature" of the report. Congressmen recruited by the food industry urged the Secretary of Health, Tommy Thompson, to cut off the $406 million annual US contribution to the WHO.
Yes of course, because when it comes to Americans' health and the obesity epidemic, we simply must put an expert in Latin American history in charge. That person will surely keep the interests of Kraft, General Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo at the forefront.
Heckuva job, Billy!
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there's a connection between poverty and poor health, and that a high-fat, high-sugar junk food diet is causing America’s obesity epidemic. But it does take the removal of political cronies and Bush family friends and relatives from policy positions.
It’s time to shove Steiger off the government payroll. No, I won't feel sorry for him. I'm sure he'll land a cushy Heritage Foundation gig where he can do corporate America's bidding all he wants.