Historically, pivotal changes in the practice of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, or nursing have occurred in response to the misery of the human condition. Health conditions such as the Black Plague, the polio epidemic, HIV/AIDS, and war are examples of how human suffering that affected large populations spurred advances in infection control, immunization, pharmacologic therapies, and survival after life-threatening injury.
When poverty or cruelty finally rises to the level of social awareness, political action is taken through Acts of the U.S. Congress. The 1935 Social Security Act, 1946 Mental Health Act, 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Medicare Act, 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and the 2010 Affordable Care Act are the moments in history when human suffering rose to a level of social consciousness that there was political action. (Source: NIH Almanac Legislative Chronology http://www.nih.gov/about/almanac/historical/legislative_chronology.htm
Today, evidence that we generate from our NIH, NSF, and Foundation grants does not translate to the public good because of regulatory control that blocks licenses health professionals from providing care to people who need it or because the reimbursement rates for professional services is too low; especially for those of us who work for public, not-for-profit health care systems. It is time for us to act as health scientists and health professionals to return to the practice of health and the ethical dissemination and sharing of research data that highlights health disparity.
Those of us who are clinical research scientists have demonstrated efficacy and effectiveness of basic health behaviors such as physical activity, immunizations, good nutrition, chronic health management, and prenatal care. The major problem is a health care system where all the resources are skimmed off the top and nothing is left for the people and health practitioners who struggle each day to provide care. As professionals, when we put on our white coats we took an oath to protect the health of society and to provide health care to those that need it.
For all of us in the medical health professions, we need to come together and seek support from our colleagues in business, health policy, and health sciences to solve the social problems that are creating 3rd world poverty, sickness, and suffering that rivals the time of the Great Depression.
Image of public health service areas in Los Angeles County; SPA6; pop 1.1 million people, green area is an economically distressed Medically Underserved Area and medical, dental, and mental Health Professional Shortage Area: