Progress in the realm of health in recent years has affected vir tually every person in the United States. Many diseases have been brought under control, death rates have dropped, and the chances for longer life have greatly increased. The control of the communica ble diseases has become so far advanced that attention is being di rected more and more to the control of the chronic, degenerative diseases and the high accident rate in order to make possible further declines in death rates and further increases in life expectancy.
The advances in the field of health since the beginning of the century give cause for pride in what has been done and give an indication of what can be done in the future. The findings of scien tific research and the speed with which they are adapted for the benefit of large numbers of individuals have aroused the hopes and expectations of millions of Americans for rapid and continuing im provement. The nation has become health conscious as never before, and the growing awareness of the benefits to the individual that are potentially available from the existing resources has manifested it self in a variety of attempts to accelerate the rate of health progress. The control and direction of the vast system of health resources have become matters of considerable study and controversy. The heated debate in recent years on the issue of social planning in a free so ciety has spilled over into the field of health and has prompted many individuals and agencies to examine broad social and economic is sues as they affect the system of health resources and practices.
There are at least three broadly related fields of inquiry pertinent to a study of health resources. First and foremost is an inquiry into the effect of research in the natural sciences upon the quality and quantity of health services. Second is an inventory of the existing resources. Third is an inquiry into the controlling social and eco nomic factors in the supply and distribution of services. Scores of investigations bearing on one or more aspects of the health field are under way at the present time. It is generally recognized that no one line of inquiry is by itself sufficient to lead to a complete under standing of the whole field. Most investigations require, as do most health programs, the integration of diverse pieces of information from the medical sciences and the social sciences.