The question was how to begin to insure success. After giving the matter considerable thought, I determined to go straight to the people, to undertake a program of health education to insure the people's support. We did not call it "health education" those days.
Instead of laying down the law to the groups we addressed, we explained what we were trying to do in the enforcement of these new laws, to learn something of their problems as well as our own, and how we might be mutually helpful. Results were encouraging.
Very early in my new career I became convinced that public health education is of first importance to a complete public health program. But to make it effective, officials must translate scientific knowledge and public health facts into terms the average person can understand, then explain in terms equally simple how to apply this knowledge to every-day living. For ignorance and age-old customs, habits and superstitions yield only when new desires and ideals are created, that makes for clearer thinking and motivates action in better habits of living. Acting on this belief, we launched our health education program in July 1905, by issuing our monthly Bulletin of the State Board of Health. The Bulletin was our most important instrument in keeping the public informed of public health problems of the state, and how and why we were trying to meet those problems. Our mailing list included doctors, teachers, editors, legislators, manufacturers and dealers in foods and drugs, leaders of social and civic groups and any citizen who requested it.
However, still another type of nurse was needed for public health work. In 1904 though, when I began my work with the Kansas State Board of Health, we had no such nurses. We began to train them in August 1909, when we employed Miss Laura Neiswenger, a graduate nurse, to accompany our Traveling Tuberculosis Exhibit. Her title was Visiting Nurse. But she was really our first public health nurse as well as the first in the state.
Though there were 26 cases of diphtheria and one death there (Wabaunsee County) in 1922, the year following our first immunization, that death was the last death from diphtheria of a resident of Wabaunsee County since 1922, a period of 26 years. I am inclined to believe that this is a record for a county of approximately 10,500 populations. This cooperation on a joint project with the schools and the county government of Wabaunsee reminds me that from the beginning in planning my work as Executive Officer, I sought assistance from and cooperation with the University of Kansas and the State College of Agriculture. In the beginning we needed their support because we were doing pioneer work and they were established institutions, so they lent authority to our efforts. Inconsequence experts from these institutions were appointed advisory member of the State Board of Health.
If the federal health services could be made to function on a cooperative basis too, the good they do would increase and their cost decline, simply because the present system makes for haphazard competition. Why should the various health services of the federal government be scattered throughout the various departments and bureaus, competing with one another, absurdly wasteful. In Kansas we set a better standard.
Dr. James A. Tobey tells us in his interesting and instructive book, "Riders of the Plagues," that "The glory that was Greece" was made possible by a universal system of personal hygiene which included athletics, games, baths, swimming and various forms of recreation, all compulsory on the youth of Greece. This wise system, during several hundred years, produced a superior physical and cultural race of people. And "The grandeur that was Rome" was in the main, the product and the expression of a marvelous system of personal hygiene and sanitation, which included an unpolluted mountain water supply and a complete sewage system, par of which is in use today. May we not properly assume that "The Glory and Grandeur" that is Untied State, in the physical, cultural and material progress of her people during the past 100 years, are due, in no small measure to modern scientific medicine and public health? And may I say that the professions of medicine and public health are adventurous and satisfying ones, too. Which should be attractive to American youth who have an ambition to serve their country in a superlatively effective way.
I began to realize, as I never had before, how much the health of each one of us depends on the health of all of us. But in my work for public health I came on another great fact, that we doctors and public health workers can make progress but slowly unless the public backs us up. This conclusion stares us in the face today, for serious problems remain to be solved. To meet them, we must prepare in time, all of us work together, a warning I cannot repeat too often.
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