Medicine: Treating the Poor

FOR one-fifth of the U.S. population, the risk of dying before age 35 is four times the U.S. average. In this group, adults have four times as much disabling heart disease, ten times as much visual impairment, six times as much mental illness, mental retardation and nervous disorder. This one-fifth constitutes the nation's poor—40 million Americans, by the Government's admittedly rough estimates.

Despite good intentions and the Great Society, the health gap is growing. In 1940, the infant-mortality rate for nonwhites was 70% greater than for whites; now it is almost 100% greater—38.8 v....