Here are some comments by Dr. Ruth Roemer, the new president of the American Public Health Assn.:
On AIDS: "There hasn't been nearly enough spent on finding a vaccine, and this is a real epidemic. At the end of our Las Vegas meeting, APHA passed a resolution coming out in opposition to employment restrictions (of people with AIDS), school restriction, all kinds of restrictions. We need a big push for public education about AIDS. This is a disease that cannot be transmitted by casual contact; it is a sexually transmitted disease."
On smoking: "We plan to continue APHA's anti-smoking initiative, begun by Dr. William Foege, the immediate past president. We're down to 30% smokers (nationally) and 70% non-smokers. We want to deter, control and discourage smoking, especially by young people. Controlling smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death and disability in the world. In the U.S., we also now have warnings on smokeless tobacco. But the way the tobacco companies are pushing smokeless tobacco in the Third World countries is an absolute scandal."
On national health insurance: "A principal emphasis I want to make is to begin work on a universal financing mechanism for world health care. We always are operating under the perennial patchwork quilt. We have employee health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid. But it is completely incredible that in this large, rich country there are 35 million people who don't have anything, no insurance against the costs of illness at all. The time is ripe and overdue to push for comprehensive national health insurance. I hope we can begin by educating ourselves, our communities and our legislatures. We need to get national health coverage for every American, similar to the system in Canada. The Canadian model is very relevant to the U.S. I think we should look to Canada.
"A state approach would be relevant. They've had state health insurance in Hawaii for some years. In California we could do it using our present carriers, and use the current system to establish state health insurance. After all, California is bigger than some countries."