ONE OF THE characteristics of democracy in the United States is the important role of voluntary associations and of private citizens in organizing and raising funds to combat health and social problems. This phenomenon was already well established more than 130 years ago; it was even then commented on at some length by Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic and monumental study of our democratic institutions. In his view, the health of a democratic society could be measured by the quality of the functions performed by private citizens.
Pediatricians as child health experts and citizens have always taken an active part in the voluntary health movement. In an earlier President's Page I commented at length on some of these contributions. My reason for bringing the subject up again is to call attention to a current Rockefeller Foundation study of health and welfare agencies under the direction of Dr. Robert H. Hamlin. The preliminary report was scheduled to be released in April. Several years ago our Executive Board, impressed with the growth and fund-raising efforts of voluntary health organizations, discussed some of the same questions that Dr. Hamlin's group is now exploring. Among them were: Are so many agencies needed? Is there unnecessary duplication? Are so many solicitations necessary? What are the agencies doing with the contributions they receive? As a result of the Board's concern, a special committee prepared a statement giving the Academy's position, particularly with reference to the use of these funds for research.
Concern with the scope and purpose of voluntary health agencies is not new. Forty years ago the National Health Council came into existence to serve as a clearing-house and advisory body for national voluntary health agencies. This was the first clear-cut endeavor to meet the problem of duplication of effort, and to strengthen the attack on public health issues. Fifteen years ago the Gunn-Platt report, under the auspices of the National Health Council and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, constituted another landmark in the evaluation of the programs of voluntary health agencies. The report stressed the need for increased agency cooperation in planning.
The National Health Council, now composed of 52 active members, of which, as you know, the Academy is one, is embarked on two special projects in this area: 1) development of a statement of the role of a voluntary health agency; and, 2) a project to produce uniform accounting principles and reporting procedures for voluntary health agencies. Reports are expected in 1961.
Other medical organizations in the Council include the American Medical Association, American Academy of General Practice, Association of American Medical Colleges, National Medical Association, and Association of State and Territorial Health Officers.
- Copyright © 1961 by the American Academy of Pediatrics