IT IS with special pleasure that I am today signing into law the National Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder, caused by a genetically determined change in the chemical constituents of hemoglobin, thus affecting the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. No cure has yet been found.
This disease is especially pernicious because it strikes only blacks and no one else. An estimated 25,000 to 50,000 black individuals are currently afflicted with the disease. Some 1,000 infants are born yearly with sickle cell anemia, and an estimated 2 million black Americans are carriers of the sickle cell trait. Many sickle cell anemia victims are crippled long before death, and some die from it prematurely.
In February 1971, I pledged that this Administration would reverse the record of neglect on this dread disease. To accomplish that end, $10 million was used to expand sickle cell programs in fiscal 1972, a tenfold budget increase over fiscal 1971. In my March 1972 health message, I proposed that we raise the funding level of sickle cell anemia activities for fiscal 1973 to $15 million. Also, at my direction, the Veterans Administration is now expanding its sickle cell program.
The National Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act, which I am today signing, follows the course that we have charted. These actions make clear, I believe, the urgency with which this country is working to alleviate and arrest the suffering from this disease.
The chief provisions of the new act are as follows:
1. Screening and Counseling Programs. Funds are provided for establishing and operating voluntary screening and counseling programs on sickle cell anemia. These activities will be part of the existing public health care operations.
2. Information and Education Activities. The new legislation also provides funds to develop and disseminate educational materials on sickle cell anemia both for health care personnel and for the general public.
3. Research. The act authorizes project grants and contracts for research in the diagnosis, treatment, and control of sickle cell anemia.
The legislation closely parallels existing Federal legislative authorities and activities.
Under the programs we have already initiated, we can look forward to the day when sickle cell anemia will be conquered as a debilitating menace to many Americans.