Big headlines were blazened across the newspapers on that memorable day of August 15, 1945: "Thank God the Job Is Done." "Victory is ours," "Japan has surrendered," echoed from every grateful heart. But not all the battle fronts are on foreign soil. America has another vital line of defense—her health line. No nation can be any stronger than the men and women who make up that nation. Let us take a close-up view of the health status of our nation.
When the first call came to "shoulder arms". after the shock of Pearl Harbor, one million men responded to that first draft. Here they came from field, factory, office, and desk. They thought they were fit physically, but after inspection there were a great many disillusionments. Four hundred thousand had to be rejected because of physical defects. In some age groups as high as 56 per cent had to be rejected as unfit for service. This was a cross section of America and revealed the great deficiency and weakness in our health status as a nation.
Actually America has three cities the size of Los Angeles (or 7,000,000 of her men and women) who are sick in bed every day of every year. Another large city of 1,300,000 might be made up of mentally sick patients. This costs more than $4, 000,000,000 every year in dollars and cents, besides all the headaches and heartaches. If this fund were distributed, it would give $33 to every man, woman, and child. In fact, America pays out more for sickness than she spends on her public schools. Accidents in 1943 cost America five billion dollars.
While World War II was killing 121,000 Americans, cancer was killing 495,000! Seventeen million living today are earmarked to die of cancer yet at least 50 percent of it is preventable. Seven hundred thousand are sick today with another preventable disease—tuberculosis. Another half million are in mental institutions. Many need never have become victims if only they had utilized the remedies which are within their power.
A noted lecturer recently said, "With the rapid increase in mental diseases we would not have enough sane men left to fight World War III !" Twenty-five thousand servicemen (two out of every ten) are being dismissed every month because of mental sickness. Add to this the great army of incurables in our mental institutions. You will then see the burden America is carrying for this class alone, yet a large percentage of these cases is preventable.
Sickness is preventable.—"What a dark picture you have painted!" I can hear you say. But we need not despair. The first step in curing a disease is the diagnosis of the case. What is the true condition? The remedy can then be specifically applied to that condition. Much of this sickness is preventable.
The diseases from which Army rejectees were suffering were not germ-laden plagues or Oriental sores. Most of the defects were brought on by their own personal living, self-inflicted injuries, bad habits in eating, drinking, and everyday hygiene. For instance, a large percentage had bad teeth and malnutrition. Forty-two per cent were rejected for poor mental adjustments to their fellows and mental diseases. Thirty per cent were rejected because of syphilis. Bad hearts and nerve tension rejected many others. These conditions, for the most part, were preventable, if only principles of correct living had been observed.
President Truman has said, "Science has won the war." Truly, science has won the fight against disease. The atomic bomb unleashed powerful agencies of destruction, but man has the same mysterious life-giving forces vested within himself. By reconstruction these powers would bring health and happiness to man in this life, and reach on into the life to come. But these powers must be unleashed and utilized if they are to help mankind.
The need of America today is to make men and women health-conscious, to cause them to stop where they are and ask, "What am I doing to myself ?" What shall it profit if a man gain the whole world and lose his own health? Many are verily committing suicide and think they are having a jolly good time. But at what a price !
New Weapons of Warfare
We are proud to be alive today in this most scientifically enlightened period of earth's history. It. is a wonderful thing to be able to tell a patient he needs to have no fear from blood poisoning. Pneumonia has a new weapon to fight with now. Childbed fever has reached the vanishing point. Meningitis, streptococcic infection (blood poisoning), abscesses of all kinds, may be easily cured with our mysterious penicillin. Other great methods of healing are the X ray, with its all-seeing eye, and that cancer-destroying substance, radium. The great powers of nature have been harnessed to become the servants of mankind.
Think, too, of the great array of defenders which nature has put into our bodies which help in this fight against disease. The skin, for instance, is a great barrier to germ invasion, as is also the blood stream and the lymphatic system. Dissolved in the blood stream itself are numerous antitoxins and antibodies, each specific for a particular germ disease, each trying to do its bit to prevent the patient from getting sick.
Then the lungs, liver, and kidneys, are like filters, screening out poisons, which if left in the body would cause instant death. Even penicillin does not kill its germ; it only cripples it, which enables the white blood cells to then overcome the germ. Nature must, therefore, ultimately heal herself. Give her a fighting chance !
AMERICA, WAKE UP!—Where, then, is the trouble? Why is not America a nation of giants and physically supermen and super women? We cannot blame the "Dark Ages" in which we are living, for in the book How to Live we read:
"Up to the present time science has never revealed any principle determining the probable or normal limit of human life. There are many good and bad reasons why men die, but no underlying necessary reason has yet been shown that they must die before or at the end of a certain number of years. We have already referred to the work of Carrel, who has kept tissue cells of animals alive outside of the body for twenty-eight years. These cells are multiplying and growing. To all appearances they are immortal so long as they are periodically washed free of poison and nourished in a proper medium. If we could, at intervals, thoroughly wash man free from his poisons and nourish him appropriately, he might conceivably live indefinitely. At any rate, the extent to which we can prolong our lives by keeping the lethal poisons washed out of our tissues is not yet reached nor' yet determined.
"In view of the vast extent of human misery from ill-health, the question naturally arises: How does it happen that the world is burdened with a load so colossal ? Is it biologically normal ? Is it true that in other organisms, animals and plants, ill-health is the rule rather than the exception ? Are all races of men subject to the same heavy load?
"These questions have not yet received sufficient attention; but the answer seems to be that man is suffering from his own mistakes made unconsciously and in ignorance."—IRVING FISHER and HAVEN EMERSON, M.D., How to Live (20th ed., New York : Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1938), PP. 145, 146.
By way of contrast, to our enlightened era, let us take a backward glance at the progress made in the last half century. We may rightly swell with pride over our scientific achievements today. For instance, grandfather was often an old man at forty. In fact, he was often dead at fifty. Today father can look forward to celebrating his sixty-fifth birthday. Fifteen years have been added to the span of life.
We have wiped out epidemics of yellow fever and smallpox. We seldom see a case of diphtheria. Why? Because the hands on God's clock of time said that in the time of the end, knowledge would be increased, and this has extended to medical knowledge. Doctors no longer treat the disease; they treat the patient and make him immune to catching the disease. Only small vials of antitoxin are used. At first it was asked, Would the stuff really prevent lockjaw, smallpox, and diphtheria? With what anxiety the doctors watched those first few cases. Miracles! A perfect job! Disease prevention had become a reality! Never need there be another case of these terrible diseases, if all would use these antitoxins.
Contrast our problems of today with our next-door neighbor, Mexico. This nation has not known the value of preventive measures. As a result, nine caskets out of every ten are for little children. Here in Ohio the funeral director nearest me says he has 140 funerals a year, and only six of these are for children.
A few years ago I was riding on a train in California. A man sitting near me was much opposed to vaccination. Across the aisle sat a Mexican mother and her sad-faced son, a handsome young man, but stone blind. He had had smallpox, and this had affected his eyes. He was blind for life. Did he believe in vaccination? Yes, indeed. But he found out too late. Children in the United States today must be vaccinated for smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, and lockjaw when they enter school. How snug and secure we feel against these diseases!
My mind still holds a vivid picture of a lad of eleven, some years ago, who ran a splinter into his heel. About ten days later he developed a stiff neck, convulsions, and contractions of every muscle—lockjaw of tetanus ! A more terrifying disease can never be seen. Fortunately, by the use of antitoxin and miraculous power his life was saved. Antitoxin would have prevented this terrible illness if it had been known. This disease can now be whipped if everyone will make use of the preventive antitoxin.
With our present-day knowledge of disease we can live above the old superstitious idea that sickness subtly pounces on its victim unawares, or comes as a judgment from Jehovah.
Do's and Don't's for Health
Health is dependent upon certain fixed laws, just as real as the laws of gravity or electricity. Obedience means health. Disobedience spells disease and death. What, then, is the cause of this needless waste in human values, and how can we prevent it?
1. First we must realize that most diseases are preventable. We are unaware of the latent powers resting in human beings to preserve health and cure themselves when sick.
2. Go to your doctor for a physical checkup. Bring into the open all those hidden "enemies." Most conditions can be cured. Don't be a human ostrich and run away from trouble. On your birthday each year have a physical examination.
3. Eliminate injurious habits of eating or drinking, which will demand a pay day from your health budget. Someone has said, 90 per cent of what you eat keeps the doctor ; the other io per cent keeps you.
4. Watch the scales. Remember that your belt line is your health line.
5. Spend some time in outdoor labor every day. One hour a day helps keep the doctor away.
6. Stress the posture. ' Standing erect relieves the traffic jam of the internal organs. Better breathing, better digestion, and better health will come as a result.
7. Take an optimistic view of the inevitable.
8. Learn anew the solace of prayer. The Comforter will come in. There is no human balm that can so calm the frustration of modern living.
How true it is that "the six best doctors anywhere, and no one can deny it, are sunshine, water, rest, air, exercise, and diet."