Anti-government rhetoric is a threat to public health

Perhaps it will come as no surprise that I find the current surge of anti-government activism sweeping parts of the nation (including this gem) to be problematic.  Thanks to the author, I’m currently enjoying Beating Back the Devil, Maryn McKenna’s 2004 book about the founding of the Epidemiology Intelligence Service.  I’m still near the beginning of the book, but one thing that’s clear is many of our greatest successes in health have come from—by necessity—government intervention.  The CDC arose out of a wartime agency focused on malaria eradication (when was the last time you caught malaria in the US?), and the EIS (part of the CDC) tracks down emerging public health threats.  When you see a story in the paper about white powder in an envelope, or about an outbreak of dysentery, it’s the EIS that is on the scene tracking down threats.

Public health problems are enormous, and leaving them to the private sector is folly.  The resources needed are nearly prohibitive, and corruption such as protection rackets is nearly guaranteed.  Even producing vaccinations—something done by private corporations—requires government support via protections against law suits.

When you take a drink of tap water without fear of typhoid or cholera, when you send your kid to the swimming pool without fear of polio, when you sit on the porch on a spring evening without fear of malaria, you have publicly-provided health programs to thank.

4 Comments

  1. theshortearedowl

     /  October 28, 2010

    When you take a drink of tap water without fear of typhoid or cholera, when you send your kid to the swimming pool without fear of polio, when you sit on the porch on a spring evening without fear of malaria, you have publicly-provided health programs to thank.

    This post is full of win. We need better education about history, let alone science, in schools.

  2. Fucking fire departments, how do they work?

  3. JustaTech

     /  November 1, 2010

    I haven’t read “Beating Back the Devil”, but I can highly recommend “Inside the Outbreaks” by Mark Pendergrast, which covers the same topic.

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