Public Health Enemies

The one-time Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop, is still going strong and, it seems, has not mellowed much.

According to an article by Holcomb B. Noble in The New York Times (Feb. 2, 1999), the tobacco industry remains Koop's chief public health enemy. But on the list of his other public health foes are the following:

  • A health care system that "leaves almost 50 million Americans with no insurance coverage."
  • "The system's failings in the care it does provide..."
  • Failings that are "made worse by the demands of managed care."
  • Inadequate attention to people infected with the hepatitis C virus.
  • Increasing obesity in the U.S., particularly among young people.
  • The high number of preventable accidental deaths among children.

About preventable accidental deaths among children, Koop says (and we agree fully), "No baby should die of scalding simply because we have not taught all young mothers how to give an infant a hot bath."

We would add a word about bicycle helmets. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that: "All cyclists should wear a properly fitted ... helmet specifically designed for cycling. Children riding as passengers must wear appropriate-size helmets in specially designed protective seats."

This writer sees child after child on bikes and skateboards, virtually none with a helmet. What can we be thinking to permit this? Well, there's another public health enemy: brain damage and deaths that could be prevented by wearing protective helmets.

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