[Skip to Content]
Sign In
Individual Sign In
Create an Account
Institutional Sign In
OpenAthens Shibboleth
Purchase Options:
[Skip to Content Landing]
August 3, 1984

The Final Epidemic: Prescriptions for Prevention

Author Affiliations

From the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.

JAMA. 1984;252(5):635-638. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350050023020

IN FEBRUARY 1980, the US Physicians for Social Responsibility held its first public meeting on the medical consequences of nuclear war. That meeting emphasized the effects on health of a nuclear exchange and the inability of the medical community to respond in any meaningful way. An analogy was drawn to an epidemic orders of magnitude worse than any ever experienced or even imagined. Since treatment for such a catastrophe is inconceivable, speakers on that occasion and subsequently have emphasized that all efforts must be directed at prevention.

At the time of that meeting, some political and military figures were talking about surviving—even winning—a nuclear war. Therefore, we physicians considered it our responsibility to describe in stark terms the medical realities, lest strategic planning be based on mistaken assumptions of medical capabilities. We were aware, of course, that prevention of any disease requires an effective prescription. We also recognized that what

Hiatt HH:  Preventing the last epidemic .  JAMA 1980;244:2314-2315.Crossref
 Report DD of Board of Trustees: Physician and public education on medical consequences of thermonuclear warfare , in  Proceedings of the House of Delegates, 35th Interim Meeting, Dec 6-9, 1981 . Chicago, American Medical Association, 1981, pp 59-60.
Relman AS:  Physicians, nuclear war, and politics .  N Engl J Med 1982;307:744-745.Crossref
Panofsky WKH:  Overview of the nuclear arms race . Read before the  First Congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Airlie House, Va, March 21, 1981 .
Sivard RL:  World Military and Social Expenditures 1980 . Leesburg, Va, World Priorities Inc, 1980.
Sivard RL:  World Military and Social Expenditures 1983 . Leesburg, Va, World Priorities Inc, 1983.
Carnesale A, Doty P, Hoffmann S, et al:  Living With Nuclear Weapons, The Harvard Nuclear Study Group . New York, Bantam Books, 1983.
Rice DP, Feldman JJ:  Living longer in the United States: Demographic changes and health needs of the elderly .  Milbank Mem Fund Q 1983;61:362-396.Crossref
United Nations Children's Fund:  The State of the World's Children . New York, Oxford University Press, 1984.
 Defense Budget Summary: A Brief Analysis of the Fiscal Year 1985 Military Budget . Boston, The Council for a Livable World, 1984.
Walsh JA, Warren KS:  Selective primary health care: An interim strategy for disease control in developing countries .  N Engl J Med 1979;301:967-974.Crossref
 North-South: A Program for Survival (the Brandt Report): The Report of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues Under the Chairmanship of Willy Brandt . Cambridge, Mass, MIT Press, 1980.
Cochran TB, Arkin WM, Hoenig MM:  Nuclear Weapons Databook: Volume 1: U.S. Nuclear Forces and Capabilities , a project of the National Resources Defense Council Inc. Cambridge, Mass, Ballinger Publishing Co, 1984.
Hopkins DR, Hinman AR, Koplan JP, et al:  The case for global measles eradication .  Lancet 1982;1:1396-1398.Crossref
Longmate N:  King Cholera: The Biography of a Disease . London, Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1966.
Wiesner JB: Foreword, in Bradley D:  No Place to Hide: 1946-1984 . Hanover, NH, Dartmouth College University Press of New England, 1984.
Virchow R:  Die Einheitsbestrebunger in der Wissenschaftlichen Medicin . Berlin, G Reimer, 1849.