ERIC Number: EJ780041
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Nov-9
Reference Count: N/A
What Ails Public Health?
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n11 pB6 Nov 2007
Public health, once the gem of American social programs, has turned to dross. During the 20th century, the public-health sector wiped smallpox and polio off the U.S. map; virtually eliminated rickets, rubella, and goiter; stopped epidemic typhoid and yellow fever; and brought tuberculosis--once the leading cause of death in U.S. cities--under control. It sought, with considerable success, to reform social and economic structures so the poor would have the same chance at decent health as the wealthy. But public health seems to be a phenomenon of the past, like the Great Society or the New Deal. One testament to the failure is the activity of American health officials, the products of public-health training programs. In the past six years, Americans have seen officials redirect tax-levy funds to pay for ludicrous "biopreparedness" exercises in anticipation of wholly fabricated epidemic dangers, concocted by an administration unable to admit its mistakes after September 11. They have heard officials endorse useless "virginity pledges" for teenagers. They have seen them invoke federal quarantine law--claiming there was a hazard to the public--to arrest one man who had flown on an airplane while carrying noninfectious tuberculosis. But in the past six years, no health official has argued forcefully for social changes that would genuinely improve the public's health on a significant scale. They don't demand reforms of the sort that would make Americans more like those developed countries (Denmark, France, etc.) where infant-mortality rates are more than 20 percent lower than theirs and where life expectancy is longer--changes like more affordable housing, a guaranteed minimum income, a higher minimum wage, restoration of workplace-safety oversights emasculated by big-business-friendly government, or better and cheaper public transportation systems. The author states that health educators must revise their teaching radically and develop curricula that face the vexatious positioning of health as a moral issue.
Descriptors: Curriculum Development, Transportation, Public Health, Housing, Educational Change, Foreign Countries, Minimum Wage, Mortality Rate, Developed Nations, Diseases, Health Promotion, Social Change, Economic Development, Health Needs, Housing Needs, Occupational Safety and Health, Moral Values, Social Action, Social Services, Health Education
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States