The word plague is versatile, whether used as a noun to describe the assault of a communicable disease on a population or as a verb to convey chronic emotional distress. The first category may best be exemplified by the endemic Black Plague that devasted human life in late Medieval and Renaissance Europe. One historical account in the journal Bulletin of the History of Medicine led to an estimate that the mortality rate from the Black Death and its collateral effects devastated 60% of the entire European population (50 million of its estimated 80 million inhabitants).
Often referred to as the White Plague, during the first half of the 20th century in the U.S., large county tuberculosis (TB) hospitals across the nation housed patients requiring specialized care. A most deadly disease, a provisional total of only 9,029 TB cases were reported in the U.S. in 2018, (an incidence of 2.8 cases per 100,000 persons). The rate among patients born outside this country, however, was more than 14 times higher than that of individuals born here. Risk factors include HIV infection status, a history of homelessness, and residence in a congregate setting.
Until the mid-1950s, polio outbreaks triggered fears of becoming a patient confined for the rest of one’s life in an iron lung. When the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) began in 1988, cases of poliomyelitis were reported from 125 countries. Since then, only Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan have experienced uninterrupted transmission of wild poliovirus (WPV).
Although declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, total cases of measles nationwide as of April 11, 2019 already have surpassed those of 2018 and likely soon will eclipse totals for 2017 and 2018 combined, according to the CDC. During the 1940s and early 1950s, the editor of this newsletter in his youth was afflicted with mumps, measles, whooping cough, German measles, chickenpox, and scarlet fever. None of those conditions was considered rare back then, which happily is quite the opposite of the present day, reflecting the current widespread availability of vaccines, effective drugs, and improved standards of living.
Meanwhile, the relative disappearance of some diseases has been replaced by the emergence of other conditions primarily associated with a sense of being plagued by doubts and uncertainties about the purported advantages of modern day life. For example, despite evidence of the positive role that vaccines play in preventing disease, some parents refuse to have their children immunized because of a fear that it causes autism. According to a recent national Pew Research Center study, when Americans peer 30 years into the future, they see a country in decline economically, politically, and on the world stage. Such grim predictions reflect a sour public mood while more extreme forms of hopelessness contribute to suicide continuing to remain among the top 10 causes of mortality in the U.S. since 2008.
Nevertheless, poking through a cloud of despair is a hearty ray of sunshine in the form of knowledge that the health professions remain a sound career choice. An aging population characterized by chronic ailments will require health care services that are not easily transportable to other countries or replaceable by robots.
More Articles from TRENDS April 2019
PRESIDENT’S CORNER—ASAHP MEMBER FOCUS
Yasmen Simonian, Dean and Brady Distinguished Professor at Weber State University, is featured in this issue of TRENDS. Read More
100TH DAY OF THE 116TH CONGRESS
A summary of important accomplishments during the first 100 days of the 116th Congress is described. Read More
HEALTH REFORM DEVELOPMENTS
Discusses: the Medicare For All Act Of 2019, provision of non-medical services for social needs that affect health, and reaction in the House of Representatives to a lawsuit to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. Read More
DEVELOPMENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Describes: an upcoming ASAHP Summit on Interprofessional Education; Congressional testimony by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos on education policies and priorities; and released draft consensus language from negotiated rulemaking sessions on accreditation and other topics. Read More
QUICK STAT (SHORT, TIMELY, AND TOPICAL)
Disparities In Prevalence Of Major Cancer Risk Factors And Screening Test Use In The U.S.
Foreign-Body Ingestions Of Young Children Treated In U.S. Emergency Departments: 1995-2015
Morning Exercise Is Better Than Evening Exercise Except When It Is Not
Using Voice Analysis To Evaluate And Predict Human Behaviors And Identify Health Risks Read More
AVAILABLE RESOURCES ACCESSIBLE ELECTRONICALLY
Hospitals’ Use Of Electronic Health Records Data, 2015-2017
Strengthening The Connection Between Health Professions Education And Practice Read More
PER SCIENTIAM AD SAPIENTIAM: SOME KEY STEPS IN THE JOURNEY
Furnishes examples from the professional literature that serve as stepping stones on the road from knowledge to wisdom. Read More
PLACING A MAN ON THE MOON AND SOME RELATED MUSINGS
Refers to health hazards associated with lengthy periods of time in outer space and implications for improving health status on earth’s inhabitants. Read More