During the past four decades, while our knowledge of physical disease has increased enormously, the scope of concern in pediatrics has broadened to inelude the intellectual development, school performance, emotional maturation, and behavioral disorders of children. Pediatricians are increasingly aware that much of the pathology of whatever nature in the children they treat has causes which lie in the social environment of their families and ultimately in the ill health of society itself—often, and most especially, in poverty. This paper is about these latter problems and about our responsibility, as mdividuals in society, as physicians, and as members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, to promote-by all the means at our disposal social health—that condition of the environment which will allow for the optimum functioning of tile individuals within it.
We may think of the etiology of much childhood ill health as a series of steps, each one further removed from the actual illness. The chain of causality leading to disease could be illustrated by a multitude of illnesses : prematurity, cerebral palsy, enteric diseases, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy. Accidental drug poisoning will be used as an example because it is simple and familiar to us all and because its relation to social health may not be clear initially. The traditional area of medical activity is the diagnosis and treatment of the poisoning itself. Physicians attempt as well to prevent such poisoning by dealing with its immediate cause, the child's finding and ingestion of the toxic substance. We substitute acetaminophen for aspirin, provide safety closures for medicine bottles, and urge locked medicine cabinets.
- Copyright © 1969 by the American Academy of Pediatrics