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Preface

Medical Statistics of the United States Army, Calendar Year 1953

Preface

Although the history of the Medical Service of the Army begins with that of the Army at Boston in 1775, we cannot trace our system of medical statistics quite to that early date. An act of the Second Continental Congress, passed on 27 July 1775, provided for a hospital, a director general and chief physician, four surgeons, one apothecary, twenty surgeons’ mates, one clerk, two storekeepers, one nurse for every ten sick, and laborers occasionally, as needed, but it did not provide for a hospital registrar. Fortunately, relatively few years passed before the essentiality of accurate medical records and reports was recognized. It was necessary to know how many men could be depended on for full duty, and how many would be rendered ineffective and require medical care because of disease.

In the first few years after its establishment, the Medical Service did not exist as a permanent medical organization but was called into being only in time of war or threatened war. In 1818, however, Congress authorized the position of Surgeon General and a Medical Department, both of which have had continuous existence since that date.

From the following year—1819—until the present, statistical data have been collected by the Army Medical Service. With few interruptions, data reflecting the trends of admissions to medical treatment for disease and injury are available for more than a century and a quarter. This series (see frontispiece) is one of the longest statistical series on military medicine in the world.

Since, in broadest terms, the mission of the Medical Service is to maintain the health of the Army, the primary application of medical statistics must be in terms of operations. Our worldwide reporting system must be capable of informing us, with minimal delay, of developing problems, both epidemiological and operational. It must help us to evaluate their magnitude and significance and it must aid in gauging our success in solving them. Various indices and rates are essential in this endeavor:  admissions to hospital and quarters, incidence of diseases and injuries, time lost from duty for medical causes, case fatality rates, and so on. One concept, however, is common to all the techniques and procedures used: the expression of medical facts in quantitative terms, or—measurement.

Throughout our past history, this device has helped in identifying and understanding and, therefore, in solving major medical problems—typhoid, smallpox, and yellow fever. As preventive medicine, new drugs, and improved therapeutic techniques combine to eliminate or effectively reduce these problems, others come into greater prominence and become the new challenge—


psychiatric disease, infectious hepatitis, epidemic hemorrhagic fever. Recognition of these shifting patterns comes through measurement.

Thus, mainly for operational needs, but also for the inestimable research value, the Army, for about 135 years, has collected medical statistics. From such statistics has come the material from which the Medical Service evaluates its functions—utilization of its resources, the state of health of the troops, the efficiency of its operations.

For these reasons, the Army examines, in quantitative terms, the registrants undergoing medical inspection for military service, the Army population on active duty worldwide, the temporary losses from disease and injury, the permanent losses by mortality and disability separation.

The present volume presents statistics which the Medical Service has collected. Thus, this volume continues our historical series. But, while it serves as an historical record, the main purpose of the publication is to place in the hands of many persons in the Army a useful tool that aids in accomplishing the mission of the Army Medical Service.

Like all the activities of the Army Medical Service, this volume is directed toward one ultimate purpose: to keep the Army fit to fight.

S. B. HAYS

Major General The Surgeon General