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Volume 3: No. 1, January 2006

FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
This World Is Yours


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Lynne S. Wilcox, MD, MPH

Suggested citation for this article: Wilcox LS. This world is yours. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2006 Jan [date cited]. Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2006/
jan/05_0147.htm
.

This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island . . . (1). When Woody Guthrie wrote and sang these lyrics in 1940, the song was more than a paean to a beautiful country. It was a call to recognize the inherent dignity of the common man. The song’s passion arose from Guthrie’s experiences during the Great Depression, when he traveled with other migrants from the poverty of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to potential employment and a new life in California (2). The catastrophic economic events occurring in the country, combined with a terrible drought and harsh winds, forced families to abandon their farms and travel hundreds of miles, looking for work and gambling on a new future. Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath (3) is the epic story of this period in history.

Songs and stories are essential but not sufficient for transforming desperation into dignity. Public health plays a critical role in the conversion. In the initial issue of Preventing Chronic Disease (PCD), we announced that a goal of this journal is to encourage a dialogue between researchers and practitioners (4). Such communication moves public health forward from investigating the principles for health promotion to implementing those principles in programs for all citizens, including disenfranchised populations. This first issue of our third year illustrates another aspect of that dialogue: evaluating health programs to assess the effectiveness of these principles and practices. We thank Qaiser Mukhtar and Leonard Jack of the Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for serving as guest editors for this issue.

During the Great Depression, unemployment rates rose as high as 33%, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was formed to provide jobs and wages across the country. The WPA included the Federal Art Project, which hired artists to design posters for government programs such as public awareness campaigns supported by federal health agencies. Many of these posters addressed the prevention and control of chronic diseases. “Obey Cancer’s Danger Signals” featured an outline of a human body and recommended consulting a physician for symptoms such as irregular bleeding, changes in the appearance of a mole, or lumps in the breast (Figure 1). The “Eat Fruit, Be Healthy” poster highlighted a drawing of grapes and an apple (Figure 2), and “Milk for Health” emphasized that milk consumption would result in good teeth and strong bones (Figure 3).

Poster showing a human figure with potentially cancerous symptoms indicated. Text reads "Obey cancer's danger signals. Do not wait for pain"Figure 1. Cancer prevention poster from the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. (From Herzog H. Obey cancer’s danger signals. 1938. Library of Congress,  Prints and Photographs Division. By the people, for the people: posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 [Internet]. Reproduction number cph 3g03639. Available from: URL: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ ndlpedu/collections/poster/file.html.)

Poster of stylized fruit illustration. Text reads "Eat Fruit, Be Healthy"Figure 2. Healthy eating poster from the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. (From Eat fruit, be healthy. 1938. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. By the people, for the people: posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 [Internet]. Digital ID cph 3f05301. Available from: URL: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ ndlpedu/collections/poster/file.html.)

Poster showing a bottle of milk and people of good health and fitness. Text reads "Milk for health. Good teeth, vitality, endurance, strong bones"Figure 3. Milk promotion poster from the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. (From Milk for health. 1940. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. By the people, for the people: posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 [Internet]. Digital ID cph 3b48986. Available from: URL: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ ndlpedu/collections/poster/file.html.)

We know that these poster campaigns increased artists’ incomes, but did they improve the health of U.S. citizens? World War II intervened before formal program evaluations could be conducted, although it remains unknown whether such evaluations were ever planned. Today, as Jack et al note, rigorous evaluations require recognition of real-world complexities and an approach that is multifaceted, multidisciplinary, and multidimensional (5).

Although we do not offer folk songs, over the past 2 years PCD has provided a forum for many voices. Our own evaluation indicates that we have published descriptions of public health programs from 37 states and research from 79 universities, federal or state agencies, and research centers. We are establishing an international presence: we now translate article abstracts into Spanish, French, and Chinese and have received Web site visitors from 67 countries.

Our hopes for PCD parallel Guthrie’s aspirations for his music. “I am out to sing songs,” Guthrie said, “that will prove to you that this is your world” (6).

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References

  1. Guthrie W. This land is your land [Internet]. Chicago (IL): Song Lyrics [cited 2005 May 20]. Available from: URL: http://www.songlyrics.com/showsongp.php?id=130366*.
  2. The Library of Congress. This land is your land [Internet]. Washington (DC): The Library of Congress, American Memory; last updated 2004 Jan 22 [cited 2005 May 20]. Available from: URL: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.200000022/ default.html.
  3. Steinbeck J. The grapes of wrath. New York: Viking Press; 1939. 619 pp.
  4. Wilcox LS. Welcome to Preventing Chronic Disease. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2004 Jan [cited 2005 July 7].
  5. Jack L Jr, Mukhtar Q, Martin M, Rivera M, Lavinghouze R, Jernigan J, et al. Program evaluation and chronic diseases: methods, approaches, and implications for public health.  Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2006 Jan.
  6. American Studies at the University of Virginia. Woody Guthrie: folk hero. Charlottesville (VA): The University of Virginia [cited 2005 May 20]. Available from: URL: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s/RADIO/woody/fhframe.html*.

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*URLs for nonfederal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users. URLs do not constitute an endorsement of any organization by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of Web pages found at these URLs.

 



 



The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.


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