By the year 2000, the results of smoking will represent the number one health problem for “Third World” countries, the president-elect of the American Public Health Association said in Salt Lake City recently.
Dr. William Foege spoke at the annual meetings of the governing board of the Thrasher Research Fund, a non-profit organization which promotes health research and demonstration projects for children throughout the world. The Thrasher fund was established by Mr. and Mrs. Al Thrasher. It is administered by Deseret Trust which is owned by the Church.
“Over the last couple of decades, smoking rates in the Third World have increased,” said the doctor, immediate past director of the United States’ Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. “Today, forty-six percent of Third World teenagers are constant smokers—they smoke all the time. That is twice the rate in the United States.”
One of the key ways to help these nations deal with the problem of smoking among their youth is to implement cutbacks in tobacco advertising, he recommended. “We could immunize the children of the Third World for what we spend in this country just to advertise cigarettes. A billion and a half dollars are spent on advertising cigarettes each year.”
He noted that the world’s health picture is not entirely bleak.
“It’s encouraging to see infant mortality rates decreasing around the world, and life expectancy increasing. It is still a marvel to me, but it has now been over seven years since there has been a case of smallpox. The program of expanded immunization in the World Health Organization has been able to increase the coverage from ten percent to about thirty percent. About fifty percent of children in Third World countries now have some contact with immunization programs, even if it’s only a single dose of vaccine.
“I’m confident that in my lifetime I’ll see three diseases disappear from the world, and perhaps four or five,” the doctor said. He noted that an international service organization has offered to provide all the polio vaccine any Third World country can use for the next five years—potentially a $120 million-commitment—and that private industry is beginning to show interest in helping with health problems.
To help defeat health problems, he said, it is important for people around the world to see themselves as global citizens and concern themselves with the problems of the earth’s next generation.