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April 23, 1973

Community Medicine: A Concept in Search of Definition

JAMA. 1973;224(4):522-523. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220170048015

What is community medicine? Is it merely medicine practiced in a community with well-defined limits? Is it traditional medicine with added emphasis on social problems, economics, interracial situations, drug abuse, and the like? In the case of low-income communities, does it mean the recruitment of private physicians to practice in scattered offices, or rather the establishment of cadres of doctors and their assistants who would provide complete medical care in central facilities? Is it all of these? More?

We must remind ourselves that it has been in communities that physicians have lived and practiced for generations. Have they not been practicing, literally, community medicine? Today, alas, many are fleeing from run-down neighborhoods as rats abandon a sinking ship. Here, it is the neighborhoods themselves that are sinking, engulfed by a morass of poverty and crime. The ghetto, as it is now constituted, will not soon regain its lost doctors because