HCA 255 TOPIC 2 DQ 1
Executive branch policies may differ from the needs of public health policy. Almost 5% of the world’s population died of the Spanish flu during World War I, possibly because the spread of the disease was not shared because it was thought that the public may not support the war effort. Provide another example of a time in U.S. history when an executive policy contradicted a health policy.
Executive branch policies often do not match the needs of public health policy. The United States kept information about the Spanish flu a secret due to fear that the public would no longer support World War I. The Spanish flu caused more than 20 million deaths worldwide and over 500,000 in the United States alone. To contrast executive and public health policy, look at cigarette packaging (executive) and prevention of lung cancer (public health).
The U.S. executive branches sometimes contradict health policies because of the political situation that could occur; however, this is one of those times during wartime where public health policy contradicts an executive one. The Spanish Flu was a major pandemic that killed more than 20 million people worldwide and over 700,000 in the United States. There were no cures at the time, so most practices were to bury people with masks on their face so they wouldn’t infect anyone else, quarantine interstate travel and halt the military draft. The general consensus was to not share news of the Spanish Flu because it may hurt the war efforts and cause more troop loss due to infection.
Executive branch policies may differ from the needs of public health policy because health policies must account for the spread of disease, and disease can often spread rapidly. This can sometimes conflict with a president’s foreign policy, or with economic legislation. An entire chapter in Underwood Dudley’s The Sickness of Nations: Epidemics and Human History is devoted to this contradiction.
Health policy and executive branch policies may differ. For example, the Bush administration spent $1.4 million to air a public service announcement video marketing the flu vaccine that was available for free at any official location such as a hospital or health clinic. The advertisement was to increase the flu vaccination rates among adults 65 years of age and older, due to the high risk of dying from contracting the Spanish Flu during World War I. This action may have contradicted public health policy, which is to protect people against infectious disease through vaccination and control measures. Another example is the Executive branch’s decision not to implement an Anti-Tobacco legislation that would have restricted tobacco sales at pharmacies, convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations; even though over 60% of Americans support this decision.
There is an ongoing tension between public health policy and executive branch policy. Although all three branches are essential to the U.S. government and can provide checks and balances, when health policy conflicts with executive branch policy, for example in the case of infectious disease, a high number of death is possible because of neglect or unwillingness in a given population to support a war effort. Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 offers more evidence that all three branches need to be involved in creating legislation that reflects health needs.
President Roosevelt’s executive branch policies caused an interruption in public health policy during World War I. In the midst of U.S. military involvement in World War I, President Roosevelt began enforcing draft laws. Because the president did not want men to avoid the draft by paying others to enlist, he disallowed any attempt to pay people to enlist.
In the years following WWII, public health officials were debating whether or not to inform the public about their needs. The government believed that they had no right to share information because people would be too worried, which could slow down the process in production that would eventually kill people. They thought that if they stressed the positive effects of what made food safer it may make people worry less and get them to support the process of bettering food safety; then, they would shut down their opposition against war involvement.
Many of our globally-shared public health efforts are actually being driven by the executive branch of the U.S. government rather than a shared, overarching, health policy. Although global health initiatives may be effective and well-intended, the policies concerning these efforts vary greatly between different administrations due to their focus on the needs of the general public, as opposed to any specific health-related issues. For example, different perspectives on whether or not to enact stricter tobacco measures may result in dramatically different approaches regarding international support or funding for smoking prevention programs. Public health may be jeopardized when an executive branch policy differs significantly from that of public opinion, as it has been in the past when sharp differences exist in opinion between political parties.
While stopping short of admitting that the administration had lied to the public, President Bush addressed the nation on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2003. He explained his reasoning for invading Iraq and his decision to break off budgetary funds for the International AIDS conference in Barcelona because of Spain’s “irresponsible” support of Iraq during the war effort.