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From 1926: Society initiates long-running weekly news service

Although the Wisconsin Medical Society moved away from publishing a special “lay issue” of WMJ after 1926, the Society continued to promote public health education through other avenues—including a weekly press service.

In January 1926, the Society began sending out free weekly press bulletins to Wisconsin’s print media. The newly created press service was under the direction of the Society’s Committee on Public Health and Instruction, Secretary George Crownhart, and Fred Holmes, its director. Stories, which were around 300 words long, focused on a range of topics such as cancer, communicable diseases, typhoid fever, seasonal illnesses, unclean hands, fresh air, infant mortality, boils, shingles and eczema. And, like the lay issues of WMJ, they were written for a newspaper’s general readership.

The response from newspapers around the state was immediate. The Society’s first three press bulletins were picked up quickly by newspapers in Shell Lake, Denmark, Antigo, Madison and Manitowoc, and after the first month, 29 daily and 131 weekly newspapers requested the service. By January 1927, the press service was distributing bulletins to more than 200 daily and weekly newspapers throughout Wisconsin, and the service continued into the early 1940s.

Here a few excerpts from the releases:

Nov. 13, 1929, on indigestion—“Why wait so long to know what the actual cause of your indigestion is, only to find that you have some organic disease that is then too far advanced to be cured. Your insurance against this possibility is an examination by your physician… Guess work is poor policy. It pays poor dividends in both health and comfort.”

Jan. 22, 1930, on cancer—“Cancer starts from a small area and then spreads. When the cancerous cells are destroyed, the patient is cured. The surest way to do this is to remove them by a surgical operation…The smaller and more localized the cancer is, the better this can be done.”

Aug. 27, 1930 on arthritis—“Among persons who live in rural communities where constant dental attention is difficult to get, infections at the roots of teeth may exist for long periods of time, slowly undermining the health as a whole and paving the way for arthritis. This is equally true of infection in the tonsils.”

June 10, 1931 on walking—“Walking remains the cheapest, most delightful, most healthful form of exercise. Anyone who is not a bed-ridden invalid can walk outdoors a mile a day and benefit by it…Sleep after a day of arduous climbing and hiking is better than sleep after a day of driving a car.”

Aug. 5, 1931 on hay fever—“One can always get relief if one can take a vacation and go to the northern part of the state. As a rule any location within 40 or 50 miles of Lake Superior will prove to be entirely satisfactory.”

Test your knowledge!

What landmark case did the Society win in 2010 when it filed suit against the state of Wisconsin? If you know the answer or would like to take a guess, e-mail Jennifer Wieman by noon, Wednesday, June 22. Good luck!

Thomas Zoch, MD, correctly answered last week’s question. The State Board of Health and Vital Statistics was established in 1876 through an act passed by the state legislature. During its 1925 Annual Meeting, the Society recognized the 50th anniversary of the Board. Otho Fiedler, MD, who was the president of the State Board of Health at that time, said, “Our policy is to attempt to educate the public so that they shall realize the value of the periodic health examination, and we hope in time that people will at least have as much interest in their own bodies, in their health, as they have in the automobiles which they drive.”

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