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JAMA 100 Years Ago | July 20, 1912|

PLAIN SPEAKING ON SANITARY MATTERS

JAMA. 2012;308(3):220. doi:10.1001/jama.308.3.jjy120125-a.
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July 20, 1912

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As the education of the public progresses in sanitary matters, the tendency to criticize officials responsible for conditions that are not as they should be becomes more pronounced. This is a hopeful sign, and means, inevitably, improved conditions. As examples of plain speaking on these matters, two instances may be cited. The headline over an article in a daily paper published in a large western city reads: “One More Baby's Life Forfeited to the Game of Politics.” The article contains an account of an epidemic of scarlet fever which was traced to a certain dairy. It specifically attributes the death of a 5-year-old child to the milk from this dairy, and goes on to say: “The milk inspection department, during the time that a milker at the farm was developing scarlet fever, was playing politics. The inspectors were out soliciting votes among such of the dairymen as lived within the city limits, and had a vote May 21. On their shoulders is laid the blame for the infection spread through the city.” The other instance also concerns the milk-supply, this time in a large eastern city. The chief inspector of creameries of the state board of health made an inspection of creameries and dairies in the city and found only three out of the twenty-seven that were up to the standard. He stated to the local board of health that he had no doubt that the impure milk was the cause of the death of many infants, and that if the board did not take immediate action the state board would step in and force the local board to do its duty. With all the agitation and legislation concerning milk it is scarcely possible that milk producers and distributors do not know the rôle of impure milk in the production of disease and death in infants. A conscience so defective as to permit such conditions to exist in the face of that knowledge requires drastic criticism and vigorous action to penetrate it and get it in a normal working condition. Fearless speaking by the newspapers and the public will surely improve the health situation.

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