Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/323

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
319
COMMUNITY DEFENSE OF NATIONAL VITALITY

personal and civic hygiene. This will involve very difficult problems of education, but the results will prove as fruitful as those which have been directed toward our better circumstanced classes. The problem of the mortality at the higher age groups is a complex one and many things will need to be done if we hope to accomplish our chief aim, which should be to show a saving in life all along the line, both in our native and foreign-born stocks, not only at the younger ages where American medicine has made brilliant contributions, but more especially after middle life.

 

COMMUNITY DEFENSE OF NATIONAL VITALITY
By C.-E. A. WINSLOW

DIRECTOR, DIVISION OP PUBLICITY AND EDUCATION, N. Y. STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

THE shadow of the tragedy in Europe can not wholly be lifted from our thoughts during the meetings of this Convocation Week. As the representatives of science and of the applications of science to the better ordering of the life of man, this barbarism shocks and amazes, as much as it saddens us. As scientific men, however, we are accustomed to recognize that slight constant factors may be as significant in their effects as large and occasional ones. It is well, as we take counsel at this time, to remember that peace, which has her victories as well as war, has also her defeats, and her ranks on ranks of killed and wounded.

It is tragic that a million or so of men should have perished in battle during the last six months of 1914, and that many more should have been wounded. It is also tragic that a million and a half men, women and children should have died in 1914 in the United States, and that some three million people should be on the sick list all the time. The most fearful thing about the war is that it seems to us at this distance so wantonly needless. Yet we are told on the good authority of Professor Irving Fisher that over forty per cent, of our annual toll of civil death and suffering is needless also.

These facts and this comparison are trite and familiar. Yet as a public health official, seeing close at hand the problems of preventable disease and the meager efforts made to solve them, I often wonder whether you and I really believe these things, and, if we do, why we do not act upon our knowledge. Is it merely a rhetorical phrase that 600,000 people die needlessly in our midst—or is it really true?

Let me rehearse very briefly the disasters inflicted upon our country during the past year, by foes whom we may conquer if we seriously will to do so. First of all, a quarter of a million infants were carried off before they had rounded out the first year of life. Try to get this out of the realm of statistics and visualize it as a solid fact. Think of