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We had a chance to wipe out sickle cell. And, we didn’t

Today, about 100,000 Americans live with sickle cell disease. But there was a moment in the early 1970s when it seemed it was going to be wiped out.

The inherited blood disorder mostly affects people of African descent, as well as Mediterranean and South Indian peoples.

American civil rights organizations had been calling for greater attention to sickle cell anemia throughout the ’60s. President Richard Nixon singled it out in an address to Congress in 1971, and research funding was increased fivefold.

Yet the result was what Boston pediatrician and sickle cell specialist Patricia Kavanagh called “the poster child of what not to do” when it comes to public health.

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