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Healthcare – Are We Making Progress?

By: Rosemary Smith, Managing Director Getting Better Foundation

Because I’m a child of the 60’s, I was raised prior to the mumps or chicken pox vaccines. When I was ten years old, the mumps showed up while I was sitting in a barber’s chair. That was the exact moment, because I remember my mother calling my hair dresser the following day to let her know she’d been exposed to my germs. For some reason, my young brain equated my visit to the salon with getting the disease. Perhaps that’s why I wear my locks long, now.

Sharing the mumps with my beautician came back to haunt me in my 20’s when I was a financial advisor and a client called to notify me that her child — who I was coddling the day before — had come down with varicella virus. I survived both diseases and some would argue my immune system is stronger as a result. However, I do believe doctors are correct that the chicken pox hits you harder as an adult – my face, torso, legs, arms, ears, mouth, nose, eyelids, between my fingers and toes — even my hair was laden with those nasty chicken pox — Ughhhh! Worse yet, as I was of dating age, I hid on my parents’ pull out sofa until the scars healed so potential boyfriends and co-workers wouldn’t witness the carnage. Am I a fan of healthcare progress we’ve made thanks to vaccinations?  You betcha.  In turn, our children and those surrounding them have been protected.

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Leonard Hayflick, the biologist & professor of Anatomy at UCSF School of Medicine, who first made human vaccines widely available – back in 1962 – developed the human cell strain that became paramount in the production of vaccines against more than 10 million diseases. Hayflick and a colleague recently documented the millions of lives saved by his pioneering work over a half century ago. According to their calculations, thanks to vaccines, 4.5 billion virus cases were averted and 10.3 million lives were saved worldwide.

As renowned psychologist and author, Steven Pinker likes to point out, if you were to look up the definition of Smallpox on Wikipedia, the first sentence reads: “Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. Yes, “Smallpox was”. The disease that got it’s name from painful postules and killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century has ceased to exist. The last case was diagnosed in Somalia in 1977. Thanks to vaccines, illnesses like Smallpox are being eradicated.

I put vaccines right up there with other healthcare miracles, like modern plumbing, antibiotics, MRIs, hand washing and heart cath stents. Isn’t science terrific? We enjoy better health, increased life expectancy (social security now pegs us Americans at 84.3 for men, 86.7 for women), access to safe, nutritious foods, and more entertaining ways of enjoying our health than ever before.

The next big wave of healthcare breakthroughs are projected to be in our heads… literally. Psychologists and Neurologists are tapping into the human brain to figure out how neurons and diseases that transcend the dura barrier work to better treat mental illnesses, brain tumors, injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and concussions.

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I hope you enjoy this post with statistics, graphs, videos and links to some of the best advances in healthcare. We, at the Getting Better Foundation, are grateful to all who dedicate themselves to getting and keeping us healthy. The proof’s in the numbers… and the numbers reflect our improving health.

© Getting Better Foundation 501(c)3.