January often gets people thinking about what they’ve accomplished over the past 12 months. This year, it got the editors of the medical journal The Lancet to ponder how far health care has come over the past century, and where it continues to fall short. [A new year in medicine]
A hundred years ago, Squire Sprigge, then editor of The Lancet, penned a piece entitled "The Promise of 1911". The current editors thought they’d review this clinical score card to see how far we’ve come.
Sadly, a lot of the problems Sprigge outlined still plague us today. The old editorial frets about the “demon of tuberculosis” and diarrheal diseases in Africa, conditions we have yet to exorcise. It also argues for legislation against “charlatans and quacks,” an issue that apparently arose long before the advent of infomercials.
The need to improve medical education, the role of the press in reporting science news, and the danger of medical tourism—they were all discussed in this century-old article that today’s editors could have run as-is after modernizing the font. Instead they simply conclude that, “Between 1911 and 2011 there is much for medicine to be proud of—and also to be humble about.”
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]