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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/609

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By Professor PAUL L. VOGT


THE state, in the interest of its own preservation and progress, has assumed control of certain activities closely affecting the life of every citizen. Among these are the care of the public roads, the distribution of the mails and the education of the youth. Still other activities now in private control should be supported by the state for the benefit of the whole people. One of the most important of these and the one perhaps receiving most public attention at the present time is the care of the health of the people, a function now delegated largely to physicians, men who receive their reward for community service in the form of fees from private individuals.

Attention to the public health presents two aspects, the one preventive, intended to preserve health by removing the causes of disease; the other curative, and intended to restore to health those who have fallen ill. The medical profession, through a large part of its history, has been almost exclusively concerned with problems of curing disease. The physician has had no direct financial interest in warding off disease from those who were well, but has dealt only with individuals who were ill. Until recently nothing was done to remove the cause of disease, the attention of the physicians being directed toward the problem of finding means of curing or relieving the pain of the one who had already contracted disease.

This was the logical course for physicians to pursue because it was from the sick individual and not from a well public that he received his pay. Under the present system the physician is prosperous in inverse ratio to the health of the community. The doctor is busiest during those seasons when illness prevails most. Were there no disease there would be no need of physicians. This would be an ideal condition for which the people would be glad, not because of hatred of physicians, but because of love for their own welfare. Since the physician to-day receives his reward from the curative side of medical practise he is not professionally interested in the prevention of disease. The public need is for a medical fraternity paid by the public whose interests will be as much in the prevention of disease as in the cure of it. Were physicians paid by the state, they would not fear the loss of income through working for the interests of the well, while at the same time attending to the ill, because the lessening of illness would not necessarily interfere with