Since I’m apparently blogging again, I might as well make it a two-fer, as they say in the Southern U.S.
In a recent blog post for JPMHP Direct, I argue the following:
the genesis of organized public health in the modern West are firmly and unquestionably rooted in social reform. Historians of public health have documented repeatedly that early public health actors were reformers and advocates to the bone.
For example, Jacob Riis’ stunning photos of NYC tenements in the 1890s were absolutely crucial to sparking municipal public health action. Riis undoubtedly saw himself as an advocate and an activist, and there is no doubt public health was the better for it. In 2010, a group of historians and scholars at Columbia University’s Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health explicitly argued that public health in the US has essentially taken an exodus from its roots in social reform and public advocacy, and that this departure has had and will continue to have grave effects on population health and health inequalities.
This is in fairness an oversimplification, one wrought from considerations of venue, word limits, and audience. (All of what follows is I think pretty well-settled ground for historians of public health in the modern West, but by all means, dear readers, tell me if I am mistaken).