If cancer, for instance, is the end-point of a long drawn out pathological evolution, what are its connections with the other pathological conditions of the body which precede it and which develop concomitantly with it? They are all parts of the same pan-systemic pathological evolution and all arise out of the same common causes.
"Every birth is a hygienic regeneration," says Dr. Felix Oswald, and despite the shibboleths and cries of alarm, of eugenic fanatics, about degeneracy, atavism, heredity, etc., this statement is true. Almost every birth is literally a hygienic regeneration. Every new born child is a fresh effort of nature to produce a perfect man or woman.
But none of these children ever reach perfection. They either die early or else are badly "spoiled in the making." Certain it is that the adult male and female of the human species is a very disappointing animal. Adults are, in the main, mere caricatures of human beings. Not because nature fails to go on with her efforts at perfection, but because of the many and varied influences which interfere with growth and development and frustrate the efforts of nature to produce a perfect being.
More than twenty years ago Dr. Alexander T. MacNichol, of New York, found upon examining 10,000 children in the schools of that city, that 35 per cent had heart derangement, 20 per cent had spinal defects, 27 per cent had tuberculosis, 60 per cent were suffering from anemia, 15 per cent suffered from some nervous disorder. Dr. MacNichol said that if the percentage of organic and functional diseases among school children held good throughout the city, and those so suffering were excluded from school, "two-thirds of our schools would be compelled to close for lack of pupils."
Basing his estimates on the findings of physical defects found in 1,400 school children in New York City, Dr. Chas. C. Burlingham, formerly Pres. of the Board of Education of that city, said that twelve million children in the United States had physical defects at that time. Based on the findings in New York City and assuming that they would hold true throughout the country, Dr. Burlingham estimated that there were then in the United States, 1,440,000 ill-nourished children, 5,615,000 with enlarged glands, 6,925,000 with defective breathing. He estimated for the city of New York, 48,000 children with malnutrition, 187,000 with enlarged glands and 230,800 with defective breathing.
Although only a trifle more than 10 per cent of the 1,400 children studied suffered from malnutrition, less than 14 per cent of them came from families with incomes of less than 10 dollars a week.
These are the children that supplied most of the the men of draft age in the recent war. Can we wonder that our young men were found to be in such a deplorable condition, when we see that they were given such a poor start in life? When the draft figures were published in 1920 it was revealed that 80 per cent of the men of the draft were physically below normal; normal meaning the median, the typical and not the ideal or perfect, while one third of them were not able to pass the much lowered standards of physical fitness demanded by a country desperate to secure men for cannon fodder.
It is asserted that 80 per cent of babies are born perfect, meaning normal. Of these little more than half reach maturity. Of those who reach maturity, 80 per cent are below normal at the time when they should be at their best. This in a country that boasts of its wealth and plenty; a country where there is a super- abundance of food and a good climate.
In 1924 it was estimated that there were, in this country, 20,000,000 children of school age. Of these, 14,000,000 suffered with some serious physical defect; 10,000,000 had tuberculosis, 1O,OOO,OOO had serious tooth troubles, 2,000,000 suffered from some (recognized) grave form of malnutrition, 1,000,000 showed the first signs of nervous disorders, while all of them suffered with frequent colds and other disorders. None of them possessed perfect health
Two years later, Dr. Herman J. Norton, Health director of Rochester, N. Y., stated that 75 per cent of the children of the United States have physical defects. Quoting a survey of 22,000,000 children that had been but recently made he said I5,000,000 had bad teeth, 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 had fallen arches, defective spines or joints, 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 were suffering from malnutrition, 5,000,000 had poor sight, 1,000,000 suffered from deafness, 1,000,000 had or did have tuberculosis, 250,000 had heart trouble, and 200,000 were mentally defective.
Year by year, so far as the figures show, the health of the American child declines. While the figures show a certain percentage to be suffering from malnutrition, the truth is that there is a greater or lesser degree of malnutrition in all these conditions of physical and mental impairment. Think of the absurdity of saying 15,000,000 children had bad teeth while only 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 suffered from malnutrition. The greatest single cause of bad teeth is malnutrition. Defective spines and joints are more often than otherwise results of malnutrition.
But we have not gone to the root of this matter in recognizing glaring defects as due to malnutrition. Any nutritional deficiency which will ultimately result in disease, will produce much damage to the tissues and to the general health, growth and vitality, long before the deficiency becomes great enough to be definitely diagnosed by the physician. We must learn to recognize that there is a long period of failing health which precedes, and prepares the way for the first appearance of physical signs--symptoms. It is not merely enough to save the teeth or preserve the normal posture of the spine, but we must build and preserve such a high degree of positive health that no so-called disease is possible.
I desire to emphasize that these and many other defects and diseases with which infants and children suffer are the early stages of the process of deterioration which culminates in cancer, Bright's disease, diabetes, insanity and nervous diseases, diseases of the heart and arteries, etc., later in life. In infancy and childhood the deterioration begins. It is then that the foundations for the disorders of later years are laid.
How important, then, that babies and children receive proper care! How great the responsibilities of parents, nurses, educators, physicians and all others who deal with children!