Community can end violence, CDC chief tells health grads

May 26, 1994|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Sun Staff Writer

Calling an end to violence a priority, the nation's leading public health official told graduates of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health yesterday that "community" will be a key to stopping bloodshed.

"Some will say that violence is a criminal problem. . . . Some will say it is a social problem," said Dr. David Satcher, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"But [as with other public health problems] we can monitor it; we can point to those people who are at risk. We can intervene, and we can evaluate the results of our efforts."

Homicide is a leading cause of death nationally among young adults, Dr. Satcher said, as he explained why decreased incidence of violence heads a list of public health needs that includes immunizations and improved health care for women.

Speaking to nearly 400 graduates, the largest class in the school's 78-year history, Dr. Satcher said that public health professionals "are concerned about the health of the community." And, using an anecdote about a meeting he had earlier this year in Morocco with African youths, Dr. Satcher reprimanded his Baltimore audience for allowing the violence to continue.

"Where is our community?" Dr. Satcher said the youths asked him. "Where are the people who would not allow guns in our schools?"

The future of public health lies in rebuilding a sense of community, he said, and strengthening social ties.

Dr. Satcher, who has headed the nation's public health agency since last year, also plugged President Clinton's health care proposal, saying that any reform must include changes in public health policy.

The president's reform package includes "a new vision for public health" -- and a number of initiatives that would be directed through the CDC, Dr. Satcher said.

Those measures would include a far greater emphasis on prevention. "Less than 1 percent of health expenditures go to population-based prevention efforts," he said. "We should triple the budget" for preventive measures. Public health reform also would include strengthened surveillance methods to track diseases, increased spending on early diagnoses and improved communication between the medical establishment and community members.

By necessity, the new definition of public health must be global, Dr. Satcher said. The increased incidence of tuberculosis, the spread of the AIDS virus and growing violence are worldwide threats, he said.

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