Myron E. Wegman, M.D., M.P.H, APHA President, 1972

Supporting Health Promotion and Prevention

Health promotion is much more ancient than some of us realize. When I left my medical school faculty position to go to work at the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization, I was given by a colleague Galen’s Textbook of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, which was published in 200 A.D. This remarkable book includes many kinds of associations working in health promotion. Specifically, he did a great job of writing about care of children, such as what could be done for

7- to 14-year-olds – much of it still true today.

In 1972, APHA resolved that we were going to start our second

100 years by combining science and activism – by providing a scientific basis for everything for which APHA stood. Today, however, we lack a sufficient scientific basis for our recommendations on health promotion and disease prevention. We are better on disease prevention – certainly on vaccination – than we are on advice on diet, behavior, exercise, and all the other things that so frequently are carried out. Our friends complain bitterly that we are on a yo-yo: One year it’s right to do this, the next year it is wrong to do that. I believe that APHA needs to provide the scientific bases for the specific advice that we give.

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