Press Releases

1999 Releases

Dean Bloom Declares Public Health Bill of Rights

For immediate release: October 03, 1999 

Boston, MA, October 3, 1999--Arguing that the public deserves "a national defense against the risks of illness and accidents," Dean Barry Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health has articulated a "Public Health Bill of Rights" that, if implemented, could prevent half of the two million deaths that occur in the US each year. He contrasts this bill with "The Patients Bill of Rights" making its way through Congress that "would affect only a minority of Americans and will do very little to improve the nation's health."

As described in the October 11, 1999, Newsweek, Bloom specifies six health-related rights that would strike at the underlying causes of the nation's top killers: heart disease, cancer, stroke and injuries.

The real culprits, he says, are tobacco use, unhealthy diet and inactivity, alcohol consumption, infectious disease, firearms and accidents--and all of these can be affected by behavioral changes.

The Public Health Bill of Rights as defined by Bloom:

  1. The right to information. "Citizens deserve the most accurate information medical science can provide on how to promote health and prevent illness," writes Bloom. "People in some parts of the US live 25 years longer than in other parts. We need to know why." He also calls for Federal support for state and local public health authorities gathering population data and sounding warnings on new disease threats.
  2. The right to mother and infant care. "We must enable every woman to plan for her family, and, when pregnant, to protect her unborn baby's health as well as her own." The US ranks only 25th in the world in infant mortality. Bloom calls for "a national strategy to reduce the disparities among ethnic and income groups."
  3. The right to childhood immunization. American children are free from the major childhood diseases, such as polio, measles and diphtheria, says Bloom. "But we must see to it that each new crop of babies receives its vaccines."
  4. The right to teenage counseling. At the age of maturity, teenagers should have the right to information on how to protect themselves from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and from addictive substances, including tobacco.
  5. The right to health screening. Simple and inexpensive tests can detect many cancers in early stages when further spread can be prevented. Tests for high blood pressure, the major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, can lead to preventive treatment.
  6. The right to a healthy environment. Bloom calls for investment in municipal water systems and tighter controls on air pollution--including indoor environments--to reduce the incidence of asthma and other respiratory problems.
Bloom makes the point that investing a small percentage of the trillion dollars we now spend on medical care into enforcement of these rights would save billions of dollars in medical costs and "result in a dramatic improvement in the well being of our entire citizenry".

For further information, please contact:

Contact: Robin Herman
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu