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Introduction

Contents

Introduction

Colonel Tom F. Whayne, MC, USA

The development of preventive medicine has been an evolution which progressed rapidly during the first half of the twentieth century. In World War I, major efforts were devoted to sanitary science and to the control of infectious diseases. In World War II, preventive medicine emerged as a special field of the practice of medicine having to do with all of the factors that influence the maintenance of health in the individual and in the military community. These factors may arise from physical or social environment, may be inherent in people as individuals or groups, or may be those activities or procedures which directly affect the health and well-being of military personnel as people. It is the latter type of factors with which the authors are concerned in this volume.

The personal health of those coming into the military services is first influenced by the manpower selection process. Viewed as a mass procedure, selection during mobilization has unquestionably established that the study of the physical and mental defects of examinees, whether accepted for the military service or not, greatly aids in determining the most effective health maintenance programs and the most efficient utilization of manpower.

Personal hygiene in the military sense is broad of scope. It includes all of the measures an individual may utilize to maintain or improve his health. Thus it includes personal measures to prevent or control disease and injury, the maintenance of a good nutritional state, mental hygiene, and the proper wearing of clothing to avoid trauma from heat or cold. Because of the personal nature of such practices, they are of necessity difficult to supervise. Health education and training for personal health practices overlap and it is hard to evaluate the effectiveness of each. The results of good or poor individual or group practices cannot be easily measured in disease or injury incidence in a causal relationship, yet may be indirectly responsible for much saving of time or for much noneffectiveness. Moreover, the level of practice of personal health measures is directly related to unit leadership.

Since American forces operated on a global basis in World War II, in vastly different environments, under varying degrees of stress, and often with a minimum of personal supplies and equipment, it is apparent that a sensitive evaluation of personal health practices of the Army as a whole is not feasible. Much was learned and recorded which should serve as a guide for the future. 

Hygiene, sanitation, control of the environment, disease and injury prevention and control, immunization, mental hygiene, maintenance of nutritional status, and other practices bearing on health were planned, organized, and supported on a scale never before necessary in United States military efforts. Despite the many variables involved and the difficulty of amassing irrefutable evidence as to the effectiveness of personal health measures, the authors of the chapters of this volume have made a careful effort to sift the experiences of World War II, and to evaluate personal health measures in the light of World War II conditions. The evidence lends added weight in the need for further development of health maintenance practices and the requirement for more effective methods of health education in the armies of the future.

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