`Primitive' cultures and our own failings on health-care...


October 18, 1999

`Primitive' cultures and our own failings on health-care issues

I am appalled that in her column on allowing disabled infants to die, Kathleen Parker referred twice to "primitive tribes" ("Killing disabled infants not `practical.' " Opinion Commentary, Oct. 8).

What is "primitive"? A civilization without modern industrial technology?

Might members of such societies be more respectful of each other than many Americans?

Might they be less warlike? Might their arts be sophisticated and beautiful?

I also think that Ms. Parker is preaching on the wrong issue. In this country, we spend millions of dollars keeping infants with disabling conditions alive, which is a bonanza for pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies.

We do not do enough, however, to prevent disabling conditions associated with such conditions as premature birth, low birth weight, lead poisoning and poor nutrition.

Strong prevention programs would mean we'd face fewer instances where a question about allowing a baby to die might arise.

Further, we do not provide sufficient resources to help parents of children with special needs cope with the demands of providing adequate care. Such children are at higher risk for neglect and abuse than other children.

One result is that our underfunded foster care system is overloaded with children with special health care needs.

The icing on the cake is that too many children, with or without disabling conditions, don't get needed health care because their families cannot afford health insurance.

Julia B. Rauch Baltimore

Uninsured population needs help on health care

The Sun's article "Uninsured include 15% paid well" (Oct. 8) reported that the percentage of Marylanders without health insurance rose from 13.4 percent in 1997 to 16.6 percent last year -- the third-fastest rate of increase in the country.

The responses to a recent poll that Community Health Charities conducted at the Maryland State Fair and the Frederick County Fair were consistent with that finding.

Of the more than 500 individuals who responded, nearly 40 percent named "finding affordable health insurance" as the No. 1 health-related concern for themselves and their families.

The Sun story noted that people who don't have health insurance are twice as likely as the insured not to have seen a doctor or received preventive care.

Equally significant is that by the time the uninsured do seek care, it is often in a high-cost, emergency medicine setting -- which involves treatment more expensive than preventive services and screenings.

Community Health Charities is a nonprofit organization of 25 health-focused agencies that provide free screenings, referrals, educational outreach and workplace programs throughout the state.

Many people with insurance take advantage of our support groups, special activities and other services. But our member charities also provide programs and services to the uninsured.

At this time of year, when companies hold their workplace giving campaigns, it is important to recognize the critical role that Community Health Charities plays in our community, and the positive impact it has on the state's quality of life.

Dan Brown Baltimore

The writer is chairman of Community Health Charities' board of directors.

Immediate prison testing has helped reduce syphilis

The Sun's article "Syphilis cases down in Baltimore, U.S.," (Oct.8) did not mention one of the unsung heroes in reducing the syphilis epidemic in Baltimore, John Gurney III of the division of virology of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The article said that Baltimore's Health Department has been testing suspects who pass through the Central Booking and Intake Center. But the state actually runs these tests.

Mr. Gurney designed the testing laboratory and directs the technicians performing syphilis testing.

At the point of intake for prisoners, the laboratory provides immediate testing and can begin treatment in two to four hours. It tests an average of 1,765 specimens per month.

Before this laboratory existed, many arrestees were released before their blood could be tested for syphilis, even though many of the women arrested are substance-abusing prostitutes.

This rapid intervention program offers an important opportunity to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in a core group that contributes to Baltimore's syphilis problem.

The laboratory plans to expand its services to provide rapid HIV testing. Syphilis and HIV co-infection are not uncommon in the population it serves.

Georgia Corso Baltimore

Eating meat can cause impotence, other disorders

As a doctor, I am interested in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal's (PETAs) billboards that draw attention to the connection between eating meat and impotence ("Real men still eat meatloaf at diner," Oct. 13).

One-fourth of men admit impotence by the time they're 60. The rush for Viagra indicates that the actual rate may be far higher.

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