Philadelphia, Pa., November, 10, 2009 — U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., are APHA's 2009 Distinguished Legislators of the Year.
Lowey has fought to improve education and enhance educational opportunity, provide quality and affordable health care, safeguard and promote women’s issues, protect the environment, ensure food safety, protect against alcohol abuse and strengthen public health preparedness, among her many efforts. As a leading congressional champion for public health issues, Congressional Quarterly cited Lowey as one of the 50 most effective members of Congress.
Lowey currently is serving her 10th term in Congress, representing parts of Westchester and Rockland Counties. She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988 and served in the Democratic leadership in 2001 and 2002 as the first woman and the first New Yorker to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
She is one of the Appropriations Committee’s leading advocates of increased federal funding for biomedical research on diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. She has helped increase the National Institutes of Health’s budget for cancer research and received numerous honors from the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Former chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus and the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Lowey introduced legislation that ensured insurance companies cover prescription contraceptives for federal employees.
After hearing from constituents about the difficulty consumers with food allergies had with product labels, Lowey authored a bill mandating clear, concise food allergen labeling, which became a 2006 law requiring food manufacturers to list the eight most common food allergens. She is a longtime champion of human rights and enhancing the role of women in development and has taken a key role in fighting for democracy and justice in Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Indonesia and around the world. She also has authored numerous bills to create a comprehensive pandemic preparedness plan.
Roybal-Allard is the new chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Health Task Force and recently introduced legislation to help those with cognitive impairments navigate the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. She has made health care reform a priority and spoken out on such public health issues as access to maternity care, insurance coverage for children, HIV/AIDS among Latinos, and improved mental health and substance abuse services.
Royal-Allard served three terms in the California State Assembly before becoming the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress in 1992. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services and Appropriations Subcommittee, she oversees funding for all health-related programs and agencies of the federal government, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NIH.
She co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Study Group on Public Health to educate members and staff about public health issues. Among her many health-related efforts, Royal-Allard authored the Folic Acid Promotion and Birth Defects Prevention Act, which became law as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000. She introduced the STOP (Sober Truth on Preventing) Underage Drinking Act, which was signed into law in 2006 and coordinates federal programs and research initiatives on underage drinking and funds a national media campaign to educate parents.
The Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act, which also was signed into law, trains doctors and nurses in newborn screening and educates parents about appropriate follow-up care. To garner increased support for investing in public health, Royal-Allard authored a resolution expressing support in Congress for an “increased federal commitment to prioritizing prevention and public health for all people in the United States.” The bill was endorsed by more than 160 health advocacy groups.