Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 11, No. 1. February 27, 1948
Health Scheme — To be ... or Not to be
To be ... or Not to be
Since its very early days Salient has been interested in health, nutrition, medical examinations and preventive medicine generally. In June, 1939, in n Special Issue attention was drawn to prevalent malnutrition in New Zealand and Salient offered the "following practical measures-for the consideration of University students, and those who are in authority:"
|(a)||The Government should cease advertising, over the air, foods and patent medicines whose contents do not attain a prescribed standard.|
|(b)||A service similar to that given by the American Consumers' Union Reports should be immediately commenced by the New Zealand Government.|
|(c)||Radio talks, circulars, newspaper articles demonstrating the principles of correct feeding should be sponsored by the Government.|
|(d)||The Government should immediately organize scientific research on it large scale on the subject of malnutrition and food values in New Zealand.|
|(e)||Films like the Nutrition Film should be made by the Government and shown widely.|
|(f)||The New Zealand Sale of Food and Drugs Act should be immediately amended as follows:
"The Physical Education Committee of the British Medical Association has made the bold and forceful statement that 'All Universities should make provision for the physical education of undergraduates.' This field of education which has been sadly neglected in New Zealand was the subject of a report to the New Zealand University Students' Association . . . proposes a minimum policy ... to meet the needs of the New Zealand Universities."
B.M.A. Proposes . . .
"The most important item to be provided is:
Medical examination for all first year students, with a view to pointing out any defects and indicating a suitable course of physical activities. Optional examinations after the first year. The examinations to be of an advisory nature, and a poor report would not debar a student from attendance at University ..."
"This programme . . . could be put into operation with a minimum outlay on materials and buildings. A second point in its favour is that the Government is interested in this kind of necessary work, and all efforts should be made to bring the New Zealand Universities into line with the rest of the world."
On June 23, 1943, in an article headed "Anti Grave-Digging" Salient gave the initial impetus to what is now widely known in the College as the Health Scheme or the Medical Scheme. "A large body of V.U.C. students who realise the value of periodical physical check-ups as a necessary feature of student life, and a safeguard of the students' future, College life brings together students from all sections of the community, imposes severe mental and physical demands on the individual . . . Periodical physical examinations can detect much concealed disease at an early stage in its career and by bringing the disease under early control save the student from future sorrows and the treatments needed if the disease continues unchecked.
The proposal that a 900 part-time Medical Adviser be appointed to V.U.C. has been put forward. This Medical Adviser would undertake to give a general medical examination to all students enrolling at Victoria University College, to be followed by periodical overhauls in subsequent years."
Students in Favour
In 1943 a referendum vote was taken and out of the 900 students then attending V. U.C. 625 recorded a vote on the medical examination proposals. 605 of the 625 voters declared in favour of the scheme for an annual medical examination.
In 1944 a voluntary examination was conducted. Just over one-third of the students then attending lectures completed the examination. In a report submitted by the committee which ran these examinations it was stated that for the efficient running of the scheme it was necessary for the examination to be compulsory. This was based on records from the doctors who carried out the exams and from the students who assisted.
In 1945 and 1946 not a great deal was heard about the Medical Scheme although a great deal of solid work was done by small committees who were investigating possibilities, writing reports, getting opinions of medical men, professors, students and lecturers, on the best way to organize and run such a scheme.
An extract from a Salient report of April 23rd, 1947, in connection with the American and Canadian tour of a party of V.U.C. biology students is of interest here:
"Compulsory Medical Schemes
"Every University visited had a Compulsory Medical Scheme. This was generally financed by a small fee and organized by the university authorities. These schemes have been running successfully for years and are taken for granted by all students."
At a special general meeting in March, 1947, a motion that "every student attending lectures at Victoria University College be required to undergo a compulsory annual medical examination" was put and carried. The only objections raised at the meeting were facetious but the storm that subsequently raged in the daily and weekly press was something to be marvelled at.
The facts were, quite simply, that a special general meeting of students had decided, among other things, that it wanted an annual compulsory medical examination for its Association members. This seems to be a simple enough statement and to indicate the use of a certain amount of common-sense on the part of said students. Imagine our surprise when we found that we were headlined in "Truth" and the daily press.
Truth at Last
"Truth with a typical disregard for facts and an almost religious belief in emotive journalese, really let itself go. The fact that the students had the temerity to request a compulsory medical examination was sufficient proof that V.U.C. was once more in the grip of the Red menace. We were, in the same sentence, "fascist, communist, socialist, totalitarian"—rather a difficult feat I should imagine.
A reply signed by nearly 300 students (within a day and a half—time was short and the reply had to be in smartly otherwise more names would have been on the list) was sent down and printed in full by this paper. Sneering remarks were made but the facts were in print which was the more important factor.
The daily press on the whole gave us a slightly better hearing and in some cases they actually asked us (V.U.C.) for our comments on the matter. It may come as a surprise to some who have not thought on the matter that the much vaunted freedom of the press is a rather untamed animal, e.g., the press is "free" to print pretty much what it likes about the doings of students but we are not necessarily "free" to see our replies in print.
As long as students act the silly goat and behave generally in a reasonably childish fashion, as at Capping Time, we are treated by the press with paternal indulgence and it is allowed that one "is only young once" and other such not. But, let the students get a serious thought in their heads, e.g.. when they thought that it was a good thing to be medically examined or to think that it was a bad thing for the Dutch to shoot the Indonesians, and there is a very different tale to be told. Distortions become the order of the day in all reports of meetings, etc.. the University becomes once, more filled not with childlike youth but with dangerous Reds; the pleasant punsters of Capping become dangerous half-baked theorists of Marx and there is hell to pay. It is a little difficult for us to see just how these transformations take place within the College but the papers assure us that it is so.
. . . And B.M.A. Disposes
One astonishing feature of the Medical Scheme at this stage is the wording of a reply received by the Health Scheme Committee here, from the B.M.A. The Committee had written asking the B.M.A. for their assistance and advice in the drawing up of a workable scheme for this College and you can imagine their surprise when they received a reply couched in terms unpleasantly reminiscent of "Truth's" hysterical ravings. This is rather interesting when you look back to the Salient Editorial of 27/5/40 in which a quoted statement of the B.M.A. advocated compulsory medical examination for students.
It becomes more obvious as time passes that it is essential for students to have a compulsory annual medical examination as a step in the direction, of effective preventive medicine. Every year some students fall prey to T.B. and other communicable diseases of which they could have been cured much more rapidly and easily if they had been discovered at an earlier stage. The Committee envisages a scheme which will eventually not only give an annual examination but provide a health service for the students throughout their student life. Salient believed in the efficacy of preventive medicine in 1939 and continues to do so.