Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Wednesday introduced new legislation aiming to assist those suffering from “neglected” diseases while living in extreme poverty.
The 2020 presidential candidate’s proposed legislation seeks to improve treatment for a wide array of diseases including chagas disease, hookworm and dengue fever, diseases that disproportionately affect low-income areas, according to a press release from Booker’s office.
The STOP (Study, Treat, Observe and Prevent) Neglected Diseases of Poverty Act plans to address the diseases, which the senator says contribute to “massive social and health disparities” across the country.
“This is an injustice that has been largely hidden from most Americans and highlights a gross inequality, where large swaths of this country are regularly exposed to raw sewage and contaminated drinking water,” Booker said in the statement. “People who live in extreme poverty are suffering from diseases that many thought had been eradicated because their communities lack the proper resources. We need to address this challenge by raising awareness and boosting investment in research and monitoring.”
The release reported about 12 million Americans suffer from these diseases that have been designated as “neglected,” usually in places with unsafe drinking water and subpar housing, sanitation and sewage systems. The press release added that because many believe these diseases have been eradicated in the U.S., they have not been tracked or reported sufficiently.
The legislation specifically will set up a task force to report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to prevent, diagnose and treat these diseases. It would also administer resources to states to allow them to track the prevalence of these illnesses, mandate the Health and Human Services Department to develop educational programs about the diseases and promote research to find affordable tools and treatment, according to the release.
Booker has made poverty a central focus in his presidential campaign.
Earlier this month he released a plan to cut child poverty, saying the U.S. has “a moral responsibility to look after each other and make sure that every child living in America has the opportunity to grow and thrive.”
According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Booker is currently in eighth place in the crowded Democratic primary field.