Human CostsEditor: While debate rages about the proposed...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 16, 1991

Human Costs

Editor: While debate rages about the proposed state budget cuts and how to manage the current deficit, we need to bring into sharper focus the human costs of these budget decisions.

It is well known that as unemployment rises, more people will enter poverty as they lose their income and their financial resources diminish.

Poverty carries with it a host of problems. When a breadwinner loses a job, the family unit becomes unstable. Stress is more likely to occur and be taken out on the children or on other adults in the home. When people are out of work, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse and crime all increase.

As programs such as those for the elderly, children and the poor are curtailed or eliminated, fewer options exist for those needing help. A downward spiral may begin for some families and will continue for others who already are struggling. Such a spiral can take years, if not generations, to reverse.

These are painful issues that elected officials and the people of Maryland must consider in our current budgetary struggles. The human costs will soar if programs are eliminated (such as general public assistance), or reduced (such as aid to local governments and human service agencies).

At the University of Maryland School of Social Work, we have more than 1,000 students and faculty who intern and work

throughout the state. They already are witnessing the harm that these cuts are causing our most vulnerable citizens. The situation is grave. We must find a bold way to address Maryland's fiscal crisis, and we must do so with justice and compassion for those most in need.

Jesse J. Harris.

Baltimore.

The writer is dean and professor of the School of Social Work, University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Cancer Deaths

Editor: As many in the state know, Maryland now has the dubious distinction of ranking first in the nation in its cancer death rate. The reasons for this are several, as were pointed out by a recent Grand Rounds panel at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

However, several of the reports on the meeting missed the good news about this epidemic: Most of the major cancers killing people in this state either can be prevented by modifying individuals' behavior or can be detected early enough for curative treatment by simple screening tests.

The four biggest cancer killers in Maryland are, in order, cancer of the lung, colon, breast and prostate. A person's chance of getting lung cancer is virtually non-existent if he or she stops smoking or never starts. Similarly, though not as definitively, by shifting individuals' diets toward foods that are generally high in fiber and low in fat, colon cancer can be prevented.

We have not yet been able to define specific behaviors that lead to breast or prostate cancers. However, a few regular and simple screening tests -- including self breast exams and mammography to detect breast cancer, and rectal exams to detect prostate cancer -- can catch these cancers in a stage when cure is likely. In addition, regular pap smears can eliminate needless suffering and death from cervical cancer.

Peter Beilenson, M.D.

Baltimore.

The writer is chief resident of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Not the Problem

Editor: Congratulations on the quality of Barry Rascovar's Opinion * Commentary piece Oct. 6.

Not only did Mr. Rascovar demonstrate his clean and objective grasp of the current economic situation in Maryland, but he fairly and directly noted that, contrary to recent recollection, it was Gov. William Donald Schaefer who first recognized the problem and began to educate the legislature and the citizenry on the dangerous economic conditions developing, as early as last November.

His column takes the first step in attempting to correct several misconceptions, pointing out that the governor was not the architect of the current problem and that he is aggressively seeking equitable solutions to the current dilemma.

Timothy D. Murphy.

Baltimore.

PB

The writer is member of City Council from the Sixth District.

Good Television

Editor: "LBJ: An American Experience" was an exceptionally illuminating historic examination of Lyndon B. Johnson's life and extraordinarily good television. If and when this four-hour documentary is reshown, I recommend that it be watched by those who missed it the first time around.

That leads me directly to your newspaper. In his preview, The Sun's television critic, David Zurawik, essentially told people not to tune in. His chief reason: the producer had not interviewed Bill Moyers, LBJ's one-time press secretary. Any halfway knowledgeable producer, according to Mr. Zurawik, would have known a Moyers interview was indispensable. Mr. Zurawik himself had interviewed Mr. Moyers (now a PBS commentator) when researching a magazine article on Johnson two years ago, he wrote.

Would Mr. Moyers' participation have added to the program? Perhaps. But so what? Even without him, this was great television.

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