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Syphilis and Social Upheaval in China

Massachusetts Medical Society
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  • Medicine


Tucker, JD; Chen, XS; Peeling, RW (2010) Syphilis and Social Up- heaval in China. The New England journal of medicine, 362 (18). pp. 1658-1661. ISSN 0028-4793 Downloaded from: Usage Guidelines Please refer to usage guidelines at or alterna- tively contact [email protected] Available under license: Copyright the publishers PERSPECTIVE n engl j med 362;18 may 6, 20101658 know about their contemporary, Maurice Hilleman, a researcher who developed more than 30 vac- cines (including those for mea- sles, mumps, and chickenpox) and who is credited with saving more lives than any other 20th- century scientist. When people benefit from public health measures, they of- ten don’t recognize that they have been helped. In the United States today, it is easy for people to take it for granted when, on any particular day, they don’t get sick at work (because of air- quality improvements), aren’t poisoned (because the food is safe), or don’t get run over (be- cause the walkway has been sep- arated from the road). In the few cases in which people do recog- nize that they’ve been helped by preventive measures, they rarely know who provided the benefit. In contrast, the help provided by curative physicians is more eas- ily identified. So whereas grate- ful patients, in turn, provide much financial support for hos- pitals, there is generally no grate- ful public providing substantial support for public health initia- tives. Fourth, some public health efforts encounter not just disin- terest but out-and-out opposition. Such initiatives often require so- cietal change, which runs coun- ter to the well-documented hu- man characteristics of “status quo bias” and “tradition-bound resis- tance.” Even the most successful public health initiatives, such as the “great sanitary awakening” of the 19th century, which dra- matically reduced the spread of tuberculosis, were

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