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Orange County

O.C. Pediatric Health Programs to Get $28 Million of County's Prop. 10 Funds


More than $28 million in tobacco tax money has been earmarked for local pediatric health programs that will be administered jointly by UCI Medical Center and the Children's Hospital of Orange County.

The money from the Childrens and Families Commission of Orange County will target prenatal care and the health of children 5 and younger. The funds will be used in a variety of ways--from community clinics to efforts to diagnose and treat autism, asthma and metabolic disorders.

''Our mission is to ensure that children are healthy and ready to learn when they start school,'' said Mike Ruane, executive director of the commission, which is responsible for allocating revenue generated by Proposition 10 throughout Orange County.

The 1998 state ballot measure added a 50-cent sales tax to tobacco products, with the money to be used to promote early childhood development.

Since February 2000, the commission has given nearly $67 million to programs dealing with families and children in Orange County. The $28.5 million that will flow to the UCI-CHOC nonprofit partnership is part of $81 million that will be allocated over the next 10 years.

Bringing pediatric experts from the two institutions together is in itself a huge step, commission officials said.

The effort will funnel $3 million to allow expansion of UCI's autism clinic; $3.7 million to helping children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; $2.8 million for a center to treat asthma and chronic lung disease; and $8.7 million to expand pediatric clinics run by both hospitals.

The programs are ''in some cases embryonic, in some cases doing OK, and in some cases already good,'' said Dr. Stanley Pappelbaum, a consultant for the commission. ''This [money] takes it to a different level.''

Nearly $2 million will go to develop a program to diagnose and treat metabolic disorders--complex genetic abnormalities that can cause disabilities.

An early diagnosis of a chronic health problem will help schools, where health issues often become serious learning issues.

"For instance, with asthma, if it's not managed and diagnosed properly, the child will not be able to concentrate in class at all," Ruane said.

"Children are expected to know more ... than they were just a couple of years ago," he said. "There's an enormous need to improve the health care system to achieve the kind of school performance that the public expects from the educational system."

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