Historic Struggle for U.S. Health Reform Recounted in Book of Political Cartoons
Tucker, Charlotte, The Nation's Health
IN ONE editorial cartoon, an injured man cowers in bed, terrified, while a robot called "Socialized Medicine" towers over him. Buttons on the robot's chest allow the patient to make a choice: flu, measles, broken leg, operation.
It is a cartoon that could easily have run in any number of American newspapers in the last three years. But this one is from the 1920s.
Editorial cartoons have been used for decades to discuss the need for and opposition to health reform, and a new book by APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), provides a look at how the debate has--and has not--changed over the years.
Published by APHA Press, "The Quest for Health Reform: A Satirical History," features cartoons from The Cartoonist Group database, a clearinghouse for editorial cartoons. The cartoons are accompanied by text putting them in context for readers.
"I see this as a book for average citizens who have an interest in health reform," Benjamin told The Nation's Health. "I'm hoping they will find that the combination of cartoon and narrative will give them an insight into this issue. It's not a new battle, and the battle isn't over yet."
The cartoons show the evolution of beliefs in the need for health reform. Notably, the American Medical Association, after supporting health reform in the early 1900s, opposed it during the Red Scare after the Russian revolution--a time when the idea was closely linked with socialism. AMA has been a vocal advocate for more recent efforts, including the Affordable Care Act.
In his preface to the book, which was conceived during a sabbatical from APHA in 2011, Benjamin said he realized that political cartoons often captured issues better than the written word ever could. …