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American voters say "reversing declining trends in children's health and education'' should be the Clinton Administration's third-highest priority, according to a survey released by a national children's-advocacy coalition.

Reducing the federal budget deficit and implementing health-care reform rank first and second, respectively, the survey found.

The survey, "Mandate for Change,'' was released in Washington last month by the Coalition for America's Children, a nonpartisan group of 250 organizations committed to children's welfare.

According to the report, voters are pleased with the Administration's proposals for children's programs so far, and are hopeful that the President will introduce programs that will help reverse the decline in children's well-being.

The report, based on responses to questions of a random sample of 1,000 registered voters nationwide in February and March, shows that voters in both major political parties support children's programs, even if funding for them means delays in reducing the national budget deficit.

However, the survey also shows that many voters are not aware of how elected officials vote on children's health and education issues. Thus, the report says, children's advocates must do a better job of informing the public about officials' actions so they can be held accountable.

Robert Keeshan, television's "Captain Kangaroo'' and the coalition's spokesman, said that "the clear message to children's advocates everywhere is: educate, educate, educate.''

All children should be screened for the presence of harmful levels of lead in their blood twice before age 3, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

In a new policy statement issued late last month, the A.A.P. went beyond its former policy, which left testing decisions up to the individual child's physician.

"Until all children are in lead-free environments,'' lead screening is needed to "prevent serious disease and disability,'' the new statement says.

The academy recommends lead screening first at 9 months of age and again, if possible, at about 24 months as part of a regular schedule of checkups.

Lead paint, which is the leading source of lead poisoning for children, can be found in some 3.8 million homes, and affects about two million children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Several studies have concluded that exposure to lead during the first two years of life can retard intellectual development.

In its statement, the academy also recommended taking measures to reduce lead exposure in the home and urged government agencies to move forward on abatement efforts to remove lead from schools with dangerous levels of the metal.

U.S. Surgeon General Antonia C. Novello has called for more educational enrichment and mentoring programs to help Hispanic students pursue careers in the health professions.

The proposal is part of a national action plan for Hispanic and Latino health issued late last month.

The plan, which Ms. Novello said will be presented this month to the Administration's task force on health-care reform, also calls for the "enforcement of equal opportunities for Hispanics and Latinos in higher education.''

The Surgeon General's recommendations include improving access to health care, promoting community-based health and disease-prevention projects, and insuring universal access to health care for the nation's 22 million Hispanics and Latinos.

Vol. 12, Issue 32

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