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H. EDWIN LEWIS, M. D., Managing Editor.
Copyrighted by the American Medical Publishing Co., 1910.
Complete Series, Vol. XVI. No. 4.
New Series, Vol. V., No. 4.
Health conservation is almost as im- equivocably opposed to the creation of a portant to the American people, it would separate department of health. In a letter seem, as the conservation of the country's to the Committee of One Hundred, Mr. forests, water power and mineral supplies. Roosevelt gave his reasons for opposing If there is any part of our national re- the department idea, and suggested as a sources more vital to the welfare and prog- substitute, grouping of all public health ress of the nation than the health of the agencies under one head. Realizing the people, we do not know it. Until recently, comparative futility of attempting to sehowever, one would never suspect from cure legislation for a department of health any attention given to health matters by in the face of President Roosevelt's objecour national legislators, that the health of tions, everything was held in abeyance for the American people was of any impor- a while. Both of the great political parties tance whatsoever. It is true that the vari- incorporated public health planks in their ous State legislatures have been meeting 1908 platforms and although that of the many sanitary and medico-sociologic prob- Republican Party was emasculated for lems with a good deal of sound judgment unknown reason, the promise of and common sense, and doubtless the local definite organization of all agencies under disposal of many public health questions one head was plainly given by the politicians has made the national proposition less in- of both sides. President Taft came into sistent.
office with great enthusiasm. Divers quesThe Pure Food and Drug Act focussed tions of great moment have engaged his atattention on the need of national legisla- tention. Opinions are somewhat divided tion along specific lines, and straightway as to the results he has been able to acagitation for the development of a depart- complish. Many are inclined to criticise ment of health began to make itself felt. the comparative lack of achievement, and Several organizations, notably the Ameri- it is perhaps true that the program as laid can Medical Association and the Commit- out by the President has been only partially tee of One Hundred of the American As- completed as yet. But one thing is cersociation for the Advancement of Science tain. President Taft himself has not been took the matter up, and an active propa- to blame. He has worked heroically to ganda was soon under way. President keep his pledges for constructive legislaRoosevelt's attitude, however, promptly tion, and if he has failed, or his plans have threw cold water on the whole movement, been deferred, the fault lies at the door of for he expressed himself as being un- the politicians. The President has shown
himself strong man, capable and prolonging of human life, and the general courageous in every way. The country augmentation of human happiness may not may rest secure in his honesty of purpose be calculable in dollars and cents. But and the broad liberality of his viewpoint. the gain will be none the less tangible, and His methods may lack sensationalism, and the uplifting influence will be promptly he may seem over judicial in his relation shown on every phase of living. to many matters, but let us take the deep- The demand for the creation of a deest possible satisfaction in the fact that he partment with a secretary in the Cabinet, is safe, sane and thoroughly human. The instead of the formation of a bureau to benation
more dependable come an integral part of some already exhands.
isting department, is well voiced by Sena
tor Owen's bill. The importance of the President Taft's attitude on public
health of the country is too great to have health questions is that of an intelli
the details of its conservation prejudiced or gent, broadminded man who has from
handicapped as they assuredly would be by necessity as well as from inclination posted
being restricted or confined to the activities himself rather fully. This being so, there
of a bureau. With the evolution that public should be little or no doubt as to the po
medicine, including modern sanitation, sition he will ultimately take on the prop
hygiene and food and drug matters, is alosition to create a national department of
ready undergoing, a Secretary of Public health. Senator Owen's bill places the
Health is bound to be one of the most inmatter fairly and squarely before Congress.
fluential and useful officials in our system If our national legislators will be as ready
of government. This emphasizes the to ascertain the opinions of their con
necessity that will arise-if the project stituents on this great problem as they were
goes through-of selecting such a secreconcerning the tariff, there can be little un
tary and his immediate assistants with the certainty as to the result. The American
utmost care and wisdom. Officials conpeople—the thinking classes—are keen for
nected with a national health department a national department of health. To be
must necessarily have exceptional ausure, there is a well defined sentiment for
thority, with opportunities for the use as economy in governmental expenditures,
well as the abuse of power that will mean but every thoughtful person knows that a
either unlimited good or far reaching harm. department of health will repay fourfold every dollar it costs. In fact, such a de- Politics Must be Kept Out of a National partment will prove a substantial earning Department of Health. It is bad enough force almost from the beginning, and be for the other departments to be pawns on able to swell the national revenues in an the chess board of national politics, even infinite variety of ways. Obviously the though following as high ideals as they ungreatest returns from the utilization of questionably do. The health needs of the governmental resources in the prevention people are too sacred, and the problems and cure of disease will come from the sav- presented are too intimately associated with ing in time, labor and expense.
the fundamental principles of Christian sulting gain to the American people by the civilization to permit the slightest taint of increase of human health, the saving and selfish interest. The questions that will
necessarily arise in the execution of public actuated by selfish interests, but in all fairhealth laws, requiring the nicest discrim- ness it must be admitted that it has been ination, the greatest moral courage, and honest and not hypocritical in its expresabove all the broadest humanity, emphasize sion. Finally, there have been countless the problem that will be presented to the other adverse influences directed against President in organizing the personnel of any proposed national health law by those such a department—if Senator Owen's bill whose interests were best served by secrecy, becomes a law. Thank God, we have a the absence of legal supervision, and the President who appreciates scholarly attain- continued ignorance of the people. ments, but more than this, true manhood, So take it all in all, it is little wonder as defined by personal integrity, individual that American health matters have reresourcefulness, and the possession of high mained so long in a state of obsolescence. ideals. It is earnestly to be hoped there. The situation until recently has been one fore, that his keen appreciation of men will of constant shame to the medical profesenable President Taft to avoid the greatest sion, shame that the active advocacy of the menace in the situation—the medical health laws favored by every earnest physipolitician.
cian and honest citizen should have been
l-ft so exclusively with the "self seekers !" The medical politician is one of the most detestable creatures on earth. The
The better organization of the profesone great factor that has delayed passage
sion has changed the old order of things of a comprehensive national health law and
completely, and the present demand for a the creation of a national department of
department of health as voiced by Senator health has been the selfish bickering of the
Owen's comprehensive bill is practically medical politicians. Personal aggrandize
the demand of a united profession. The ment and self gain have been so patently
American Medical Association as it stands the moving force in the past, that our wide
today with its state and county affiliations awake congressmen have instantly grasped
is one of the most powerful organizations the situation and the whole question has
and fundamentally one of the greatest been prejudiced and its urgency discounted
forces for good in the country. It has proportionately. With apparent zeal and
crystallized the sentiment for pure food and
crystalliz enthusiasm in humanity's behalf, year after
drugs, and shown to the country—especyear an appeal has been made to Congress;
ially to the legislators—that the medical but with few exceptions the loudest and
profession are earnest and sincere in their most strenuous advocates have been un
desire for a national department of able to hide their hypocrisy and selfishness,
health; that American physicians are and the fundamental good of the prop
heart and soul in favor of all legislation osition has, therefore, been obscured by the
that will promote the public welfare; and all too evident aims of the promoters. As
that to the medical profession there is no a further drawback, active opposition has
interest so sacred as that of the health of been constantly exerted by medical men our American people. whose positions and interests would be The great American Medical Associajeopardized by a change in the existing tion has its own dangers, most of them health laws. This opposition has been also internal and the product of its phenomenal