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May 19, 1989

Preventive Medicine

JAMA. 1989;261(19):2879-2881. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420190155055

The remarkable evolution of preventive medicine to include problems such as violence, environmental contamination, and chronic diseases continues. Simultaneously, the science base has improved, leading to viral fingerprinting in poliomyelitis eradication programs, computer assessment of individual health risks, and chemicaldetection abilities exceeding interpretive abilities. Some developments warrant special note.

A detailed evaluation of the future of public health was issued by the Institute of Medicine.1 The Institute of Medicine committee concluded that toxic exposures, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and addiction, together with such traditional problems as sanitation, infectious diseases, and nutrition, require strengthening US public health abilities. The committee reports that "an impossible responsibility has been placed on America's public health agencies" and that defects in organization, funding, and strategy must be addressed.

The committee provided a contemporary mission statement of public health as carrying out society's interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy. Governmental health agencies