Health is Our Finest Social Value

The most stunning revelation of the presidential election was that a plurality of voters — 22 percent — cited “moral values” as the chief determinant in how they cast their vote. And it appears that these values were largely derived from a fundamentalist Christian philosophy.

I do not question the good Reverend James Dobson’s adherence to the teachings of the famous pacifist of two millennia past. Instead I wish to suggest that there is another social value that may better serve America today. This value is testable, measurable and objective. It is universally valued. Everyone wants it – no matter if they’re a pauper or billionaire, gangster or saint or politician.

Health and well-being are indisputably, laudable and universally valued.

Health as a value is however regularly abrogated. When tobacco firms receive taxpayer subsidies, public health is harmed. When nuclear plants annually pump-out tons of radioactive toxins human health is being sacrificed. When car exhaust destines inner city children to stunted lives, health is being blasphemed.

Health is an infallible compass. A north star that faithfully leads to good policy solutions.

PSR believes that this value, health, also lends special insight about war. I quote from Barry Levy and Victor Sidel’s book “War and Public Health.”

“War accounts for more death and disability than many major diseases com bined. It destroys families, communities, and sometimes whole cultures. It directs scarce resources away from health and other human services, and destroys the infrastructure for these services. It limits– and often totally eliminates – human rights. War leads many people to think that violence is the only way to resolve conflicts, a mindset that contributes to domestic violence, street crime, and many other kinds of violence in the world. War contributes to the destruction of the environment..”

Let us apply fundamental concepts of public health to the political sphere. Let us promulgate a moral standard of health. Let us examine each and every issue using the following criteria: does this activity, or policy, engender health and well-being or will it lead to greater problems, disease and harm?

Despite a strict adherence to the scientific process, physicians are today beneficiaries of public confidence bordering on the mystical. This is no surprise. edicine is rooted in ultimate religious virtue, compassion — as well as the ancient art of healing. As Gov. Howard Dean M.D. beautifully portrayed, physicians can play an important role in civil society. We are messengers of health. Let us evangelize. The times demand it.

Add a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment