JANUARY 15, 1958
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Health is one of the most controversial subjects one can discuss and yet the health of every one of our citizens is of great concern to us.
I think we should ask our doctors to work out the best methods by which we can correct the present situation which has been uncovered by the military draft. We have found that many of our young people, on reaching maturity, have defects which make them unfit for the draft—defects which might have been remedied when they were small children.
Our medical associations—many of them—are worried by what is called "socialized medicine," and I am sure their arguments have merit, but that is only an added reason why our doctors should be asked to develop a system by which every individual automatically receives complete and competent medical care from the pre-natal period right through his life. Unless this is done we again will be wasteful of human material.
The quality of medical care should never be dependent on the economic condition of the individual. I have often heard it said the very rich and the very poor in this country can command the best medical care, but that the intermediate group is often obliged to accept insufficient or inferior care.
In the interest of the future defense of our nation, this should not continue. Poor physical health has an effect on mental health, and the constantly increasing rate of mental illness in this country is something that we should consider with extreme care and certainly take every step possible to eliminate.
We are beginning to do more basic research in this country on the diseases which disable human beings, and if our government and our people become more research-minded, I am sure that the answers will be found to some of the problems that now disturb us.
We wish to act because we understand our needs and voluntarily accept whatever is necessary to meet them. In the Soviet Union, the decrees come from the top and the people do as they are told. They go through the motions of giving lectures on health and on the reasons why certain things should be done by the people, but there is no choice open to anyone. If the health authorities decide that you must appear once a month at the clinic to be checked, you appear or else you are sent for.
To meet a system of compulsion and get the same good results must be the aim of all of us who wish to preserve our freedom. We must not lower our standards for quality, however.
The Soviets have had special needs and have been wise, at the top, in putting the emphasis on things which they felt were most important. For instance, they graduate more doctors in the field of public health, for that is where their first efforts were needed. A pure milk and water supply was nonexistent a few years ago, but it is one of their aims today. They aim to wipe out epidemics and malaria, which we have already achieved.
It is evident, therefore, that we must not copy. We must use what we can learn from them—and from anyone—but we must develop along our own lines. Our objectives, however, must be clearly defined and the machinery to achieve them must be set in motion. Otherwise, it will be fair for the uncommitted areas of the world to say: "With freedom, the benefits achieved in the Soviet Union cannot be attained."