Fall Conference on Children's Health Care Should
Address Parents' Rights
June 5, 2000
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton recently highlighted
the serious problem of over prescribing Ritalin (a drug
commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder) in
young children. According to the Associated Press, Mrs.
Clinton has proposed several initiatives to combat the
over prescribing of Ritalin, including:
- clinical trials for young children,
- training for doctors who treat children,
- a handbook for parents, and
- a fall conference on children's mental health.
Government Programs and Ritalin Use
One important issue the conference should look at is the
relationship between government programs and Ritalin prescriptions.
In 1989, Congress mandated states to increase the number
of low-income children receiving psychological examinations
from 30 to 80 percent by 1995. Most recently, in 1997
Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law
a new federal program that gives states $48 billion over
ten years for children's health care.
Those federal programs have undoubtedly had an impact
on Ritalin use. The fall conference should closely examine
how those initiatives have affected American children.
Another important issue that the conference should
address is parents' rights to choose their children's
health care. It is amazing that public schools are pushing
Ritalin, while at the same time they are denying parents
the right to choose natural products for their children.
School Board Requires Prescription for Herbs
On January 24, 2000 the Cumberland Valley School Board
in Pennsylvania voted unanimously to require students
to have a doctor's prescription to use herbal medicines,
teas, and nutritional supplements in schools, according
to the local newspaper, the Patriot-News. The article
notes that some parents argued that herbal or dietary
supplements are not medications.
The school board's president, however, purchased a
well-known over-the-counter herb and noted its label
stated that it should be kept out of the reach of children.
When the issue was raised to the school district's physician,
he recommended that a doctor's prescription be required
in order for the school nurse to administer dietary
supplements or herbs. The article states, "But the issue
became complicated because the district found out, and
parents acknowledged, that several area doctors won't
write prescriptions for herbal or dietary supplements
even though they support the use of them."
This recent decision shows the enormous power and
influence that school boards have over children's health
care. Let's hope that the fall conference on children's
health care addresses the important issue of parents'
This article was originally published in the March/April
2000 issue of Health
Several federal programs have undoubtedly had an
impact on Ritalin use in children.