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Proposed Health Museum Gets A Shot In The Arm

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WASHINGTON -- Museums are good for the mind, but at least one museum of the future may be good for the body.

The Bush administration gave a boost last week to a struggling museum concept known as the National Health Museum. Officials hope the museum will educate and inform visitors and lead them toward better health.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson pledged $1 million in tax money to the museum project, which has been discussed for several years but has failed to become a reality.

Thompson took $250,000 each from four of his agencies -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health -- to cover the pledge.

''We are in the business of health,'' Thompson says. ''If we can find ways to improve the quality of health for all Americans, that is an investment we should be making.''

The museum concept includes:

* A discovery center, where interactive displays will explain how health and science fit into daily life.

* A health conference center, where groups can meet to discuss health issues.

* Classroom facilities, where visiting students can access special health and medical programs.

* A Web site that will provide a ''virtual'' tour of the museum.

Supporters of the museum have collected about $10 million in seed money, including the HHS money and $1 million from the American Medical Association. AMA president Donald Palmisano says his group hopes the museum will give a boost to medical education. Success stories like Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victories after his cancer treatments might inspire students to become doctors, he says. ''To excite young people, we have to show them what can be done.''

The next goal, planners say, is to find a site for the museum near the National Mall. They then will try to raise $200 million to start building.

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© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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