Public Health And The Public Good

I grew up around health care. My mother was a long time RN at Lutheran Hospital in the OB-GYN Department. Later in her career she became in instructor in OB-GYN at the Lutheran Hospital School of Nursing. She went to Ohio University right out of high school in 1936 and was in a six year cooperative program between Ohio University and the Lutheran Hospital School of Nursing that led to a BA degree and a RN certification. She finished that program and started her nursing career in 1942, the same year that she married my father. She retired in 1984.

Growing up around health care gave me an interest in science and in health care as well. My undergraduate major in college was in biology and I had an extensive course work in all the sciences in college. Therefore, I have a keen interest and understanding of the role that science plays in society as well as in public health. In fact, the college where I received my degree, Kent State University now has a School of Nursing and a School of Public Health.

It was around one hundred years ago that the movement toward public health became very important in the United States. For decades, millions of immigrants were coming to the United States seeking a better life and our factories certainly needed the cheap labor provided by those immigrants. But the harsh reality was that for most of those immigrants, they lived in crowded slums in our cities, including Cleveland. Those urban slums were havens for disease and infection.

Then came the “Great War” and the influenza pandemic that caused millions of deaths worldwide and in the United States. About the same time there was a movement in the country to “clean up” those slums in the cities when “muckraking” journalists like Jacob Riis exposed the horrible conditions in those slums. One hundred years ago killer diseases like diphtheria and pertussis or whooping cough killed millions of children. Other deadly diseases then were tuberculosis, pneumonia and cholera that killed millions.

At the same time vaccines were developed against those killer diseases and due to vaccination clinics and the vaccines, those diseases were almost eliminated in the United States. Later, antibiotics were discovered that were very effective in treating diseases and as a result far fewer Americans were dying from communicable diseases. When I was born in 1948, children were vaccinated against whopping cough and diphtheria, so those diseases were unknown to my generation.

But there was a new disease threat to my generation, polio, which had crippled former President Franklin D Roosevelt as a young adult. There was no cure for polio and every summer parents were afraid that polio could cripple or kill their children. Then in 1955 there was nothing short of a miracle as the Salk polio vaccine became available. No one questioned the vaccine, and they even brought the polio vaccine into the schools. Then seven years later in 1962 came the Sabin oral vaccine that was more effective. Since then, polio as well as diseases of my childhood such as measles have almost been eradicated in the United States.

But recently there has been a movement in the United States against vaccination. This was accelerated during the COVID pandemic. Suddenly many Americans are skeptical about vaccinating themselves or their children against killer diseases. But just because those diseases are rare in the United States doesn’t mean that the bacteria and viruses that cause those diseases have gone away. Now, diseases like whooping cough (pertussis) and measles are coming back because children have not been vaccinated. They have even detected the presence of polio again in wastewater.

In addition, COVID hasn’t gone away. It is still a leading cause of death in the United States and most of the COVID deaths are among the unvaccinated. In Michigan, two parents recently were convicted of child endangerment when their child died from whooping cough because they never vaccinated their child. So this compounds the tragedy of losing their child as they were sentenced to prison.

As far as I am concerned it is sheer stupidity to ignore the science and medicine and refuse to get vaccinated or to vaccinate your children against diseases that have the potential to kill. Somehow there is a network spreading misinformation and lies about vaccines despite the rigorous testing requirements before a vaccine is approved for use to the public.

But there is one thing that is incurable and there is no vaccine for it either. That is stupidity. The only method of combatting stupidity is to become better informed. But that is the difference between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance can be “cured” by becoming better informed. Stupidity is refusing to become informed or ignoring the information completely while believing misinformation that could possibly kill you or your children.

Correction to my December column about Christmas in Cleveland. The old Higbee’s department store became Dillard’s in 1996. Then the Dillard’s store downtown closed on December 31 2001. That was the last of the downtown department stores to close. The building is now the Jack Casino.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 15, Issue 1, Posted 6:11 PM, 01.01.2023