Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Dr. Elders, Our New Surgeon General, Will Be Controversial

Category: Access To Children's Health Care


Pediatrician, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, President Clinton's appointee as surgeon general will probably assume office June 1, 1993, pending her Senate confirmation. Along the way, however, there will be some controversy because of her very strong stands on things such as abortion and planned pregnancies. In a telephone interview to Pediatric News, she said her number one rallying cry will be "to make sure that every child in this country is a planned and wanted child". This concerns me somewhat as an adoptee who is obviously not a planned child. I certainly love to see all children wanted and loved, but to put "planned child" as the number one health problem facing our nation seems a little out of line considering all of the many health problems we have.

Dr. Elders also said in her interview that she will have control over the Office of Population Affairs, the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy programs, the Office of Women's Health, and the Office on Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She describes these activities as "all the fun things". An example of Dr. Elders activities as head of the public health for the state of Arkansas was her favoring of birth control services in all school clinics in Arkansas. She believes that this is the best way to combat teenage pregnancy. I have mixed feelings on this subject even though the American Academy of Pediatrics is a strong proponent of this. I personally feel that every patient having a physician is the ideal situation. I believe parents should teach sex education in their home with support from all of the community including school, church and clubs such as Scouts. I believe this is the healthiest way to prevent teenage pregnancies and to teach good general health knowledge regarding sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS. I personally don't favor giving out condoms at schools because studies consistently show it just increases sexual activity, pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases and it does not decrease anything. I think the overall plan must include values training and we must have responsible adults teaching abstinence and not just promoting free and open sex. Young people obviously are under tremendous peer pressure to have sex at earlier and earlier ages and if we give them a green light by handing out a condom, are we really helping their public health? Are we really preventing unwanted pregnancies? I think not.