Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Presidential Policy Paper No. 2: The Nation's Problems of Health.

November 01, 1964

AMONG the ancient foes of man, disease still ranks as public enemy number one.

Our scientists and doctors have made great strides. With ever increasing inventiveness they have found ways to cure our afflictions and to stretch our life expectancy.

In 1900 the average American citizen could look forward to reaching the age of 47. Today he can look forward to 70 years.

The miracle of medicine has not reached its limits. But neither has the misery of disease.

Today more than 74 million Americans are afflicted with chronic disease.

Mental illness--in all its forms--casts a shadow on 18 million of our people. The mentally ill fill half of our hospital beds.

Heart disease cripples 12 million.

Arthritis and rheumatism, 12 million.

Diabetes, 3 million--and half of them don't know they have it.

The catalog is long and large.

In our war on disease we have won great successes. Twenty years ago fewer than one out of every five cancer patients could hope to survive. Today the ratio is one out of every three. Experts tell us that, if we continue the fight, one in two can be saved.

But success in fighting disease means more doctors, more nurses, longer hospital care, better clinical facilities.

With the help of wise Federal programs we have begun to meet the need.

We have added more than 5,000 hospitals and nursing homes.

We have supported more than 150 projects to meet problems of the aged and the chronically ill.

We have increased support for medical research--18 fold in the last 16 years.

We are supplying construction aid to schools of medicine and dentistry, as well as loans for students entering these professions. Less than a month before his tragic death President Kennedy signed into law a comprehensive program for mental health and mental retardation.

Our war on disease is well begun. But the needs are staggering.

Three thousand communities in America exist without a doctor.

Big city hospitals are chronically overcrowded. A survey in one city showed that one out of every two pregnant women had not seen a doctor before delivery.

Our goals are not high enough.

We need 50 percent more young men and women training to be doctors and dentists just to keep the present ratio with our growing population.

We need 60 percent more nurses by 1970.

Last year State and local health departments had only 51 percent of their staff adequately trained, and more than 5,000 positions vacant. We need at least 17,000 more public health workers by 1970.

There are areas in which we have hardly begun to meet our responsibilities.

First, we must provide adequate hospital and nursing home care for our senior citizens by a sound program financed through contributory social insurance. I pledge that the legislation to accomplish this will head my program next year.

Second, we must step up the fight on mental health and mental retardation. I intend to ask for increased funds for research centers, for special teacher training, and for helping coordinated state and local programs.

Third, we must expand our program to help train the doctors, dentists, and technicians this Nation desperately needs. Right now the statistics show that we are importing interns and resident physicians from other countries which can ill afford to lose them.

Fourth, we must enlarge programs to help disabled citizens rehabilitate themselves for useful employment.

Fifth, we must increase existing programs of medical assistance to children of low-income families.

Sixth, we must work to correct the deficiencies of young men who are rejected for military service because of health.

Seventh, we must move ahead in the effort to protect the purity of the water we drink and the air we breathe. Air pollution, according to one estimate, causes $11 billion damage each year to property alone. No one can measure the damage to our children's lungs.

The Great Society which we mean to build in America must be a healthy society. I pledge my wholehearted energies to make it that way.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Presidential Policy Paper No. 2: The Nation's Problems of Health. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under


Simple Search of Our Archives