Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Letter on a National Health Program.

July 15, 1938

My dear Miss Roche:

I am glad that your Committee has had such an excellent response to its invitations to representatives of the public and of the medical and other professions to participate in the National Health Conference. I regret that because I shall be on a cruise I shall be unable to speak to the Conference.

I am glad that the Conference includes so many representatives of the general public. The professional experts can and, I feel sure, will, do their part. But the problems before you are in a real sense public problems. The ways and means of dealing with them must be determined with a view to the best interests of all our citizens.

I hope that your technical committee's report on the need for a national health program and its tentative proposals will be read and studied not only by the participants in the Conference but by every citizen. Nothing is more important to a nation than the health of its people. Medical science has made remarkable strides, and in cooperation with government and voluntary agencies it has made substantial progress in the control of various diseases. During the last few years we have taken several additional steps forward through the extension of public health and maternal and child welfare services under the Social Security Act, the launching of a special campaign to control syphilis, the establishment of the National Cancer Institute, and the use of Federal emergency funds for the expansion of hospital and sanitation facilities, the control of malaria, and many related purposes.

But when we see what we know how to do, yet have not done, it is clear that there is need for a coordinated national program of action. Such a program necessarily must take account of the fact that millions of citizens lack the individual means to pay for adequate medical care. The economic loss due to sickness is a very serious matter not only for many families with and without incomes but for the nation as a whole.

We cannot do all at once everything that we should do. But we can advance more surely if we have before us a comprehensive, long-range program, providing for the most efficient cooperation of Federal, state, and local governments, voluntary agencies, professional groups, media of public information, and individual citizens. I hope that at the National Health Conference a chart for continuing concerted action will begin to take form.

Very sincerely yours,

Miss Josephine Roche,

Chairman, Interdepartmental Committee to Coordinate Health and

Welfare Activities of the Federal Government,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on a National Health Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209091

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