Julius B. Richmond receives the Heinz Award for Public Policy for pioneering a revolution that helped transform Americans' attitudes toward their own health and improve the collective quality of life across generations.
A pediatrician and child development researcher, Dr. Richmond is professor of Health Policy, emeritus, at Harvard University. His leadership within government and academia has helped empower millions of Americans to take responsibility for their own well-being, and as a consequence, has helped reduce the nation's mortality rates, particularly among children.
Dr. Richmond was one of the original founders and the first director of Head Start, the federally backed effort to improve the early development of poor and at-risk children through comprehensive child care services. During the 1960s, he also organized and directed the Community Health Centers program as part of the federal anti-poverty program.
In 1977, President Carter appointed him to serve as the U.S. surgeon general and assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Two years later, he issued a seminal report, Healthy People: The Surgeon General's Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. He leveraged the report to create greater awareness about the role of health promotion and disease prevention - rather than focusing on the treatment of disease. The report challenged the country to meet 226 goals over the next decade to make people healthier, reduce deaths by 20-35 percent and lower sick days by 20 percent for the elderly. By 1987, the ambitious goal had been fully achieved for children between one and 14, with the rest of the age groups achieving an 80 percent success rate. Dr. Richmond's original objectives since have been updated by two administrations.
In 1979, Dr. Richmond tackled another pervasive public health issue - cigarette smoking. His report, Smoking and Health, documented the harmful effects of cigarettes and cautioned that smoking was the "single, most preventable killer in America." The report went well beyond the government's 1964 report on smoking. It offered particularly sobering warnings to women, leading to a change in cigarette warning labels to include the risks of smoking during pregnancy.
The following year, Dr. Richmond focused the public spotlight on prenatal and pediatric health care. He organized the "Workshop on Maternal and Infant Health," calling together a panel of 75 experts to help develop a national strategy for combating infant mortality and eliminating the disparities in health status, particularly between blacks and whites.
Dr. Richmond has served as the director of Harvard University's Division of Health Policy Research and Education, a joint venture of the schools of medicine, public health and government. He has also served as the director of the Judge Baker Children's Center, a program dedicated to the healthy development of children through research and education. He co-chaired the Carnegie Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Young Children, which has called for expanding social programs such as Head Start and the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children to better meet the needs of children living in poor environments.
Dr. Richmond's energetic and steadfast leadership for more than 50 years has produced profound results. He has brought to the process a level of insight, involvement and enthusiasm that has been truly remarkable. One of this nation's true giants in the area of public health policy, Dr. Richmond's life's work leaves as its legacy a healthier America - especially its poorest young children.
Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.
Julius Richmond passed away on July 27, 2008.
UPDATES SINCE RECEIVING THE HEINZ AWARD
September 2006 - Harvard creates Center on the Developing Child to honor the lifelong work of Julius Richmond. - Harvard University Gazette
January 2006 - Richmond receives the Public Advocacy Award from the Friends of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The award went to Richmond for his lifetime contributions to public health service and education which have "lessened health disparities for disadvantaged groups, provided extensive media information about the state of public health, and helped convince Americans that cigarette smoking was a major contributor to preventable disease." - Friends of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
July 2005 - Richmond co-authors the book The Health Care Mess: How We Got Into It and What It Will Take to Get Out with Rashi Fein. The book analyzes the current "quest for profits" state of the health care industry in the United States, and offers the idea of government sponsored health insurance for everyone as a possible solution. - Publishers Weekly Review
April 2005 - Richmond signs on as part of a new group whose purpose is "to promote expanded trade with Cuba." The new U.S.-Cuba Trade Association's first agenda is to defend and strengthen trade interactions that concern agricultural and medical products, which the group sees as vital to both nations, and then to work toward restoring normal trade relations between the United States and Cuba on a more general level. - National Journal's Congress Daily
February 2004 - Richmond is one of four former surgeon generals to unveil a new national plan to curb smoking. The plan calls for a tax of $2 on every pack of cigarettes, a burden that is predicted to encourage at least five million Americans to quit smoking. - The Associated Press
Speech12/4/2003 - Acceptance Speech
It was a privilege for me to have served in Washington at the same time as Senator Heinz. He exemplified the best in our democratic tradition; he worked to improve the lot of all people in a non-partisan way. He was our social conscience and it is indeed an honor to be recognized by the Foundation, which bears his family's name.
I have had the good fortune to live for almost a century. Therefore my observations on the health, education and welfare of our children are from the perspective of a century. What is our record? Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
If we look at our progress in reducing morbidity and mortality the glass is half full. We have dramatically reduced infant mortality - although we could do better. We have virtually eliminated the acute infectious diseases of childhood. During my pediatric training I spent half my time taking care of children with diphtheria, whooping cough, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, which medical students educated in the U.S. will never see! And we eradicated smallpox from the world! These are dramatic examples of the applications of biomedical research to public health through the development of sound public policies.
But in the development of programs for children growing up in environments of poverty, the glass is half-empty. Please let me become more personal.
Thirty-eight years ago, in 1965, we were in the midst of a civil rights revolution that resulted in the anti-poverty program. I was asked to come to Washington to develop a bold new comprehensive child development program that we called Head Start. Within six months we enrolled 500,000 children in 2700 communities. Most importantly we took seriously the mandate of the legislation for the program: "maximum feasible participation of the poor." We empowered people in their communities. Those were days when we had the political will to do bold things.
But unfortunately the political will waned. Today only 60% of eligible children are enrolled. And the cynics keep raising questions about whether the program works. Leaving aside all the research which shows that it does, who should apologize for feeding hungry children or providing them with medical care; or helping them to develop sound habits of learning.
Even more significantly, the gap between rich and poor children has grown larger. Children growing up in urban and in rural poverty still need Head Start. We know how to raise children well and how to educate them. But we lost the political will. It is time to regenerate it in the spirit and in the memory of Senator Heinz.