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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/322

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

PHYSIOLOGY AND THE PREVENTION OF DISEASE.
By Dr. J. M. RICE.

THAT disease is far more prevalent than our knowledge of prevention justifies can hardly be doubted. An inquiry into the cause of this evil, as well as into the manner in which it can be removed, is therefore, in my opinion, not inopportune.

With few exceptions, that which is done at present for the prevention of disease is limited to improving the sanitary conditions surrounding the individual, in consequence of which two very important factors are left out of consideration: Firstly, that many diseases are caused by unfavorable internal conditions, which for the most part can be traced to imperfect development and improper modes of living; and, secondly, that exposure to unfavorable external conditions is not necessarily followed by illness, for the reason that the body itself offers a certain amount of resistance to the same. Unless, therefore, our efforts be extended *to the prevention of diseases arising from internal causes as well as to increasing the power of resistance, they must to a considerable extent remain inefficient.

As the means employed for the purpose of improving the surrounding conditions are well known, it will be unnecessary to enter into detail here regarding them. The deleterious substances in the outer world are principally germs and other impurities of various kinds in the atmosphere and food. That diseases arising from such causes have considerably diminished during the past few decades, owing to the attention given to isolation, disinfection, antisepsis, sewerage, cleanliness, ventilation, etc., is unquestionable.

The remaining elements in prevention, namely, the regulation of the internal conditions and the increasing of the power of resistance, are so intimately connected that they are furthered by the same measures.

Although the conditions upon which the power of resistance depends are for the most part obscure, physicians agree that, other things being equal, an individual is strongly guarded against disease when he is in good health, and that resistance diminishes when the vitality becomes lowered. Now, in order, that there may be good health, normal functional activity of all the organs is essential. By endeavoring to secure good functional action, therefore, we do all possible for increasing resistance to disease caused by unfavorable external influences; but, in addition, we obviously aid in the prevention of functional derangements which, together with their consequences, constitute a large percentage of all diseases.