The world over knows him as the brother of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Others would peg him as the young politician with a variety of supposed indiscretions. But for me, Sen. Edward Kennedy will always be the one who quite literally crashed the 1978 International Conference on Primary Health Care in Alma-Ata, in the then-Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakhstan, attending the conference not as a member of the US delegation but in his personal capacity as a staunch advocate of the universal right to health care.
What follows are excerpts from the Physicians for Human Rights' blog entry recognizing the superhuman efforts of Ted Kennedy in propelling forward the cause of health for all.
The Philippines maybe thousands of miles away but his leadership and inspiration resonate even here in our archipelago, especially among us who are likewise working hard to make health a right enjoyed by all. His contributions to humanity include the following:
* In 1966, Senator Kennedy created a national health center system.
* In 1972, he became Chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee, enhancing his ability to champion the cause of quality health care for all Americans.
* Another priority for Senator Kennedy was the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program. This program, popularly known as WIC, offers food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children.
* He became a champion of the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata, which called on the international community, and all health and development workers, to protect and promote the health of all people of the world.
* Senator Kennedy authored the Refugee Act of 1980, which established a comprehensive U.S. policy to provide humanitarian assistance, admission and resettlement to refugees around the world.
* In 1990, Senator Kennedy introduced, along with Senator Hatch, the groundbreaking Ryan White CARE Act, which provided emergency relief to the thirteen cities hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic, and also provided substantial assistance to all states to develop effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs, aimed particularly at early diagnosis and home care.
* In 1994, as Chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senator Kennedy worked closely with President Clinton to expand opportunity for working families. His leadership brought about the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
* In 1997, as Chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Senator Kennedy worked closely with President Clinton to expand opportunity for working families. His leadership brought about the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
* In 2006, Senator Kennedy sponsored and helped pass the Family Opportunity Act, which provided states the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs, allowing low- and middle-income families with disabled children the ability to purchase coverage under the Medicaid program.
* In 2007, he sponsored the Health Care Safety Net Act of 2007.
* So deep was Senator Kennedy’s commitment to the highest attainable standard of
health, that on July 9, 2008, while recovering from brain surgery, he made a surprise trip to Capitol Hill. There he cast a critical vote to secure healthcare coverage for senior citizens.
What attracted me to be more pro-Obama than pro-McCain is the pronouncement of Mr. Obama in their second presidential debate in no uncertain terms that health should be a right for every American. And I'm pretty sure he got a huge amount of inspiration from Ted Kennedy who has been walking the talk, declaring in the 2008 Democratic National Convention the following:
And this is the cause of my life - new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American - north, south, east, west, young, old - will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.
Good night and thank you, Mr. Kennedy. Rest assured that the work you have done and the items still in your to-do list will be see some hue of completion, hopefully sooner rather than later.