The public health movement in Boston, 1870-1910
Scanlon, Dorothy Therese
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The public health movement had its genesis in urban centers where overcrowding and insanitary housing conditions intensified human misery and the ravages of disease. Boston by the mid-nineteenth century was a crowded city with a high incidence of disease. Through the efforts of the municipal Board of Health and humanitarian urban reform groups, the city became a leader in the public health movement. By 1870, the first strides had already been made in the United States to promote interest among sanitarians in preventive medicine and the preservation of the public health. In Massachusetts, the first modern state Board of Health, encompassing the idea that the state has a duty to preserve the public health, was established in 1869. Four years previously the Metropolitan Board of Health was formed in New York, with doctors among its members, to study and enforce methods for preserving internal health rather than merely quarantine and street cleaning regulations; this was the first such municipal venture. In 1870, efforts to establish a similar municipal board of health were gaining importance in Boston. The Board of Aldermen in Boston had charge of the enforcement of the health laws for the city in 1870. The Aldermen, who were burdened with other duties and lacked any scientific interest in hygiene, neglected to enforce the sanitary laws of the city. Consequently, the leading physicians of Boston repeatedly suggested that the health administration of the city be changed, and a board of health, independent of the Board of Aldermen be formed, with at least one doctor as a member. Such proposals were, however, ignored by the Aldermen. [TRUNCATED]
Thesis (Ph.D.)—Boston University
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