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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Now that he has fallen: Teddy Kennedy's contribution

As author John James says, "I remember the days early in my adult life when I believed that a more socialized system of healthcare was overdue in America. Ted Kennedy was a hero of that vision, and I bought one of his books. Once I became a 'responsible' adult my personal wellbeing trumped any social goals I had at a more equitable healthcare system...until that healthcare system took my son's life."

Ted Kennedy starts his 1972 book: In Critical Condition - The Crisis in America's Health Care with this:

"I am shocked to find that we in America have created a health care system that can be so callous to human suffering, so intent on high salaries and profits, and so unconcerned for the needs of our people. American families, regardless of income, are offered health care of uncertain quality, at inflated prices...Our system especially victimizes Americans whose age, health, or low income leaves them less able to fight their way into the health care system...It is an industry which strongly protects the profits but only weakly protects the healing and rights of people."

John James continues, "This was published 37 years ago and the pages on my copy of this book are turned a dingy yellow. Sadly, very sadly, the words of Senator Kennedy are more true today than they were 37 years ago. He ran the good race, but we must carry on now that he has fallen and the finish line is more distant than ever."

I'm also missing Teddy, who I increasingly realize was one of our greatest public health heroes. Here is a list of the healthcare laws he was influential in shaping, courtesy of the Massachusetts Hospital Association's Monday Report: The National Community Health Center Program; The Family Protection of Medicine Act; Meals on Wheels and the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program; National Military Child Care Act; Ryan White CARE Act; Mammography Quality Standards Act; Human Services Reauthorization Act; Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); the Mental Health Parity Act; Children's Health Insurance Program; Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act; Pediatric Graduate Medical Education Act; Family Opportunity Act; and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. In addition was his sustained strong support of funding for cancer research.

Advice to public health advocates: Take heart from Teddy's example.

Read another story about Teddy’s encounter with cancer.

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