Victor (Vic) Sidel, M.D., who died in late January, was a national and international champion for health, peace, and social justice. Among his numerous activities, he co-edited with me six books on war, terrorism, and social injustice that were published by Oxford University Press. Vic left an extensive legacy in the residents and students whom he trained, in the organizations that he strengthened, in the scholarly books and papers that he edited and wrote, and in the policies and programs that he promoted for a healthier, more peaceful, and more equitable world.
Imagine that there is a disease that claims more than 30,000 lives in the United States each year. Imagine that countless more people survive this disease, and that many of them have long-lasting effects. Imagine that there are various methods for preventing the disease, but there are social, political, and other barriers to implementing these preventive measures.
Who is selected to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court will profoundly affect key public health issues, including gun control, access to reproductive health services, and climate change. In recent years, the Court has ruled, usually by 5-to-4 decisions, on these issues and will likely continue to do so by narrow margins.
When heads of state and other leaders of 195 nations reached a landmark accord at the recent United Nations COP21 conference on climate change in Paris, they focused primarily on sea level rise, droughts, loss of biodiversity, and ways to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in order to reduce these consequences. But arguably the most serious and widespread impacts of climate change are those that are hazardous to the health of people.
In 1933 in the midst of Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address, wisely stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That wisdom has as much relevance today as it did during the Depression.
The four-year drought in California, which is causing severe water shortages and related problems, is receiving increasingly more attention. It is affecting everyone, causing people to adjust their lifestyles and causing small business owners and entire industries to rethink their use–and misuse–of water.
In 1971, William Irvin Thompson, a professor at York University in Toronto, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled, “We Become What We Hate,” describing the way in which “thoughts can become inverted when they are reflected in actions.” He cited several scientific, sociocultural, economic, and political situations where the maxim appeared to be true. The physician who believed he was inventing a pill to help women become pregnant had actually invented the oral contraceptive.
One hundred years ago, World War I began — the “Great War,” the war “to end all wars.” A war that arose from a series of miscalculations after the assassination of two people. A war that eventually killed 8 million people, wounded 21 million, and disabled millions more — both physically and mentally.