A little more than two years ago Tony Robbins, the departing editor of Public Health Reports, and Art Lawrence, of the Surgeon Generals office, asked me if I would step in for a little while and serve as editor of the journal while a permanent editor was sought. I happily agreed. After all, six months of working with and on issues that mattered to me, in a different forum, with people who creatively approached public health issues and could write about them, seemed more a gift to me than from me. The six months turned into almost two years, and I have enjoyed them. I have enjoyed them because of the wonderful work I see being done around the country, because of the pas¬sionate concern I see from practitioners, academics, pol¬icy makers, and students, because of the wonderful colleagues with whom I have worked. Had I known it was going to be two years, I would have staffed up, and thereby relieved Judy Kaplan, Scien¬tific Editor, of the enormous additional burden she has shouldered in producing the journal. Judy has done more than any editor should have to in getting each issue out. It is no understatement to say that every issue of the past two years is hers. In the absence of any other permanent staff, she and I were saved from failure and catastrophe by many colleagues who volunteered their time—including three volunteers who read manuscripts, brainstormed suggestions for articles, called friends and colleagues for contributions, suggested new ideas and approaches, and provided constant encouragement: Ken Brown of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Mark Yessian of the DHHS Office of Inspector General, and Anne Fidler, academic liaison to the Boston Univer-sity School of Public Health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They have been great support and great friends. Anne deserves special mention because week in and week out she was my partner in producing this journal, and deserved to be listed on the masthead as co-editor. Janice Lesniak for the first year and Maureen Osolnik for the second provided essential administrative support and advice. This temporary federal employee is grateful for their knowledge, patience, and problem-solving skills. Mary Fisher has given us her time, good work, and unfailwaste money and perhaps do more harm than good when we invest only in pet projects. That approach leads to waste, not real, sustainable change. We need a new approach, one of systemic change. When we make investments and champion policies that support developing countries in building capacity, including the establishment of an effective public health infrastructure, then we will see long-term, sustainable improvements that lead to economic advancement, better health, and improved global living conditions. In the short term, we can fulfill our immediate responsibilities to our own people by improving our ability to inspect imported goods and food and insist that imports meet our own public health standards. As we did when we boycotted grapes and bought only union lettuce, we can each choose to spend a few extra cents to buy goods made by union labor or from companies that respect worker health and safety standards.
We can insist that our government make massive grants to and investments in the WHO. We can insist that our government pay off as soon as possible its UN dues, which are nearly $1 billion in arrears, according to the US (the UN believes we owe billions more). We can work toward finding common ground between the North and South on environmental issues so that we don’t see another breakdown in negotiations like that in Novembers summit on global warming at The Hague. And we can curb our own appetite for polluting vehicles, chemicals that destroy environments, and drugs like cocaine whose production distorts rural economies.
We have a tradition in this country of rebuilding without malice. Had President Lincoln lived to fulfill the promise of his second inaugural address, “to bind up the nations wounds,” we might have had a less punitive Reconstruction period and might have avoided the corruption that followed it. When General George Marshall announced the Marshall Plan under the Truman Administration in 1947, he said, “Any government that is willing to assist in the task of recovery will find full cooperation.. .on the part of the United States.” The same Europe that 50 years ago was on the verge of starvation was soon the site of stable democracies and flourishing economies. Many trace the emergence of the European Union back to the Marshall Plan, which emphasized free trade across borders and international cooperation even with the vanquished. As we so generously assisted those we defeated in war, so let us assist our trade partners.
Let us help them set standards for democratization of decision-making, for fair wages and improved working conditions, for cleaner environmental practices, for cross-border cooperation. Let us support them in investing in public health, education, economic development, and other activities that will lead to sustainable change and humane living conditions. The earliest Americans understood the wholeness of the universe, the relationship between people and the earth, the connection of all things. Without the technology of space travel, they had a clear view of our globe. We would do well to see the world through their eyes.