Federal health officials expect to be asked by Mayor Marion S. Barry to aid in solving the District of Columbia's massive health care problems, including its high infant mortality rate.
"We are preparing our own posiion on this in anticipation that the District administration will be entering into a dialogue with us. We are not waiting for them to come to us," said Dr. George Lythcott, administrator of the Health Services Administration of the U.S. Public Health Service.
Lythcott said he does not know exactly what form the aid will take. "But the thing we can offer as much as anything else is technical assistance. We can give them advice on a national basis of how it's being done in other areas. We're not trying to dictate to the District at all," he said.
The city has the nation's highest urban infant mortality rate, the fourth highest tuberculosis rate, the highest cirrhosis death rate and one of the highest veneral disease rates.
Barry has said on several occasions that he intends to make a lower infant mortality rate one of the primary health goals of his administration.
"This agency has been given responsibility to look into infant mortality wherever that is needed in the United States, and here at home would be a very good point to take off," Lythcott said.
"I think the very first thing that needs to be done is to take a good look at the health care system in the District and decide what needs to be done with infant mortality, as well as other areas. We will respond, within funding limits, to improve health care," he said.
"We will not launch a study of the District's probems, but we would be delighted to participate in that. They may choose to go that route, and I would hope that if they don't know where the problems are they would find out. We would expect a plan from them, and we are inclined to react favorably to improve the health status in the District," he said.