JANUARY 23, 1948
HYDE PARK, Thursday—The week of February 8th has been designated National Heart Week, and I think the public's attention should be drawn to the following statement made by the American Heart Association: "Heart disease causes greater mortality than the combined total of deaths resulting from the next five leading causes: cancer, accidents, nephritis, pneumonia and tuberculosis." The American Heart Association is composed of outstanding heart specialists and many laymen who have awakened to the fact that it is time to organize a nationwide program to fight this disease which takes such a heavy toll.
There are three main objectives in this program: (1) Research, for which money must be provided. (2) Education of the public, for which money is also needed but which can be carried on by laymen as well as by doctors—and even by volunteers, once they realize they have a part to play in telling people what can and should be done to prevent the great toll of deaths every year. (3) Service, which means bringing the benefits of the best medical knowledge within the reach of every citizen in every community.
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This is not something that doctors can do alone. You and I must be aware of the need and, through voluntary agencies, must do as good a job on diseases of the heart as has been done by those agencies which have almost stamped out tuberculosis and those which are working year in and year out on infantile paralysis.
In 1945, so many people were aware of the dangers of tuberculosis and infantile paralysis that they gave four hundred times as much toward preventing and curing those diseases as they gave for the prevention of heart disease. And the general public gave one hundred times as much to educate people in the prevention of cancer and in the research and care that is needed. But we let the ravages of heart disease among children and adults go on from year to year, with much less awareness of the price we are paying.
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There are many things besides giving money which can be done to combat all disease. One of them is to keep people, young and old, in better health all of the time.
This is partly a question of food—and one of the things on which our food depends is soil conservation. We must take care not to destroy the essential things in the soil that are needed to produce the proteins which people must have to be strong. A campaign should sweep this country, drawing together the farmer and the man who works in the city, because what is done on the farm affects every city dweller.
Food affects mental as well as physical health. The statistics, which horrified us during the war, on the general health of our young men should be studied with extreme care, since these statistics affect our nation in peace as well as in war. They affect the health of every child and every adult.
Every farmer who farms well can feel that he has done his share to contribute to the prevention of conditions which make all people more prone to the diseases which we have to fight in an organized way.