MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Gilbert Rochon, III PH.D., MPH
Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Global Health Management & Policy
Tulane University’s School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine
Senior Consultant with MSF Global Solutions, LLC
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Having observed the frequency with which President Donald Trump characterized changes in regulatory policies and funding levels with respect to public health and the environment as eliminating or curtailing “unnecesssary Obama-era regulations,” I became curious as to the full extent and impact of such deregulation and under-funding of health and environmental safeguards.
In the process, I found it necessary to review federal government contributions to public health and the environment under all previous presidents.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: It soon became evident that the Trump Administration represented an extreme outlier to an otherwise increasing level of federal public health and environmental contributions, during the terms of office of Democrat, Republican, Federalist and Democratic-Republican presidents. Under the nation’s first president (unaffiliated), George Washington’s watch, the Bill of Rights were ratified. His immediate successor, John Adams (Federalist) signed the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen in 1798. Since that time, substantive public health and/or environmental contributions were made by Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican), by Republican presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Regan, Herbert Walker Bush, George Walker Bush, as well as during the administrations of Democrat Party Presidents Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Ironically, some of the greatest damage to public health & environmental safeguards under the Trump administration, in addition to such safeguards established during the “Obama-era,” having been directed against policies enacted under Republican presidents. Particularly at risk are Republican Presidents Theodore Roosevelt’s American Antiquities Act in 1906, Howard Taft’s Public Health Service, which included “contributing factors such as pollution of navigable streams,” Richard Milhous Nixon’s 1970 CleaN Air Act & National Environmental Policy Act, Nixon’s 1972 Clean Water and 1973 Endangered Species Act, as well as Republican President Gerald Ford’s authorization of the EPA to regulate toxic chemicals.
Like Trump, Ronald Reagan also advocated “weakening environmental regulations” and appointed Ann Gorsuch, the mother of Trump’s supreme court nominee Neil Gorsuch as EPA Administrator. Her attempts to undermine EPA Clean Air Act & Clean Water Act regulations were rebuffed by the Supreme Court. To his credit, however, Reagan’s public health contributions were substantial, including the Orphan Drug Act, National Organ Transplant Act, Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act, Food Security Act, Animal Welfare Act, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Service Act, inter alia.
As summarized in the accompanying PowerPoint Presentation, federal government contributions to public health and the environment under more recent presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush, and especially under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have each been significant, prodigious and monumental.
Also summarized in accompaning PowerPoint Presentation is a partial listing of the assault on public health and environmental safeguards thus far and continuing under the Trump administration. The long list includes the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Climate Agreement, Nuclear Weapons Treaty with Russia and the Iran Nuclear Deal. Other safeguards under threat include the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, coal ash waste regulation, protected species, protection of public lands from drilling and mining and repeated attempts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, etc., etc.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: In stark contrast to his presidential predecessors, the rampant deregulation and defunding of key public health and environmental safeguards and the counter-scientific policies with respect to climate change under America’s 45th President represent a clear and present danger to the health of the public and to the ecosystems upon which we all depend.
It is important to note that protecting the environment and the health and safety of the public should not be viewed as partisan political ideologies, as evidenced by the fact that many of the regulations now in force were crafted over the centuries by elected officials from multiple political parties.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Given that policies within the Trump Administration’s appointees within EPA, DOI, USDA, HUD, etc. continue to be impacted by budgetary cuts, deregulation, and in some cases lack of enforcement, it is crucial that the public, the free press and the social media exercise continued vigilance in monitoring, countering, protesting, advocating and exercising the civic duty of voting, while struggling against voter suppression, environmental degradation, climate change denial, inhumane pharmaceutical pricing and public health related disinformation campaigns, whether derived from foreign or domestic perpetrators.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: I wish to acknowledge sources that were most helpful in reviewing the literature:
Popovich & Albeck-Ripka “52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump” NY Times 10/6/2017
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Legislative Chronology https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/what-we-do/nih-almanac/legislative-chronology
Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, Dept. of Health & Human Services. History. https://www.usphs.gov/aboutus/history.aspx
Robinson Meyer, “How the U.S. Protects the Environment, From Nixon to Trump: A curious person’s guide to the laws that keep the air clean and the water pure.“ The Atlantic, March 29, 2017 https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/how-the-epa-and-us-environmental-law-works-a-civics-guide-pruitt-trump/521001/
H.R. 2430 – FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017
Presidents of the United States- http://www.enchantedlearning.com/history/us/pres/list.shtml
Environmental Law Research Guide. Georgetown Law Library. http://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/c.php?g=209325&p=1381408
Beschloss, Michael. Presidents of War: The Epic Story, From 1807 to Modern Times. NY: Crown Publishing Group, 2018
Beschloss, Michael. Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007.
USC Schwarzenegger Institute, Digital Environmental Legislative Handbook. “An Easy to Use Toolkit for State Legislators to Create Environmental Legislative Action,” A Curated List of Environmental Laws That Both Protect the Environment and Support Economic and Job Growth. http://envirolaws.org/
Clinton White House Archives https://clintonwhitehouse4.archives.gov/CEQ/earthday/ch13.html
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “Environmental Health Legislation Database.” Nov. 13, 2017 http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/environmental-health-legislation-database.aspx
Bill of Rights Institute https://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/
U.S. EPA Laws & Regulations: The Basics of the Regulatory Process. 2017 https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/basics-regulatory-process
Federal Policy on Ozone Standards, 2017-2020
Environment Law – Environmental and Natural Resources Law. HG.org Legal Resources https://www.hg.org/environ.html
Brenner, Joanna. “Neil Gorsuch’s Late Mother Almost Annihilated the EPA. Is History Repeating Itself” Newsweek, 2/1/2017. https://www.newsweek.com/anne-gorsuch-new-bill-abolish-epa-551382
Currently, I have an appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Global Health Management & Policy at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, a Research Scientist appointment pro bono in the Dept. of Public Health Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana and periodically serve as a Senior Consultant with MSF Global Solutions, LLC in New Orleans.
Citation: APHA 2018 abstract
Federal Government Contributions to Public Health and the Environment over the Past 220 Years: 1798-2018
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