If you’re feeling a bit glum about the state of the world today, I recommend reading an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Ten great public health achievements—United States, 2001-2010 (the full text is available for free).
From vaccine-preventable diseases to to cancer prevention to preventing childhood lead poisoning, this short piece describes the strides made to improve the public’s health…usually despite the efforts of the public ;)
Each of these ten achievements is impressive in its own right, but given my focus on vaccines, I’d like to quote the same thing Seth Mnookin did:
A recent economic analysis indicated that vaccination of each U.S. birth cohort with the current childhood immunization schedule prevents approximately 42,000 deaths and 20 million cases of disease, with net savings of nearly $14 billion in direct costs and $69 billion in total societal costs.
We’ve also seen things like a 36% drop in neural tube defects since the push to get more folic acid out there. I think we can all agree that less spina bifida=a good thing.
And how about this:
From 2000 to 2009…the death rate related to motor vehicle travel declined from 14.9 per 100,000 population to 11.0, and the injury rate declined from 1,130 to 722; among children, the number of pedestrian deaths declined by 49%, from 475 to 244, and the number of bicyclist deaths declined by 58%, from 178 to 74.
I had no idea! That’s wonderful.
So let’s all take a minute and thank our tireless public health officials who are out there doing the (usually thankless) job of trying to make sure kids don’t chew on lead-painted toys or get run over by cars. They’re heroes who save lives every day.