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tv   Reel America Plagues and Politics - The Story of the United States Public...  CSPAN  December 6, 2020 11:36pm-12:01am EST

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happiness. ♪ [triumphant music] >> next on reel america, appalachian and politics, the and politics, the story of the united states public health service, produced by the u.s. health and human services department, it marked the 1998 bicentennial of an organization that began at the marine hospital service and has gone through many changes since. ♪ >> the public health service, its people, and programs affect the lives of millions of americans every day. whether it is a matter of medical research, food and drugs, contagious diseases, or the delivery of health care, the public health service plays a significant role.
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how the public health service became what it is today is really the story of public health in america, a story that is still unfolding. throughout the years, the public health service has fought its battles in plague ridden cities and in the corridors of power in washington. today's public agencies are challenged by an ever-changing orld and they respond. the centers for disease control and prevention strive to protect citizens from infectious and noninfectious diseases. the health resources and services administration supports the training of health professionals and sends them to underserved areas. the national institutes of health conduct basic research on diseases such as aids. the food and drug
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administration hastens the approval process to bring new drugs to the public. the substance abuse and mental health services administration provides services for mental, behavioral, and addictive disorders. the health-related concerns connected with hazardous waste are increasingly important. another responsibility of the agency for toxic substances and disease registry. a relatively recent addition is the agency for health care policy and research. the agency strives to assess the effectiveness of medical care. the public health service also responds to needy members of the community, providing care to native americans through its indian health service. it also assists the elderly, drug addicts, those with aids, and others who might be forgotten. when it started, its mission was to serve a group that had little access to medical care, merchant seamen.
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that was in 1798, when an act of congress signed into law by president john adams provided for the government to maintain hospitals for sick or disabled seamen as had been traditionally done in england. for its first 80 years or so, what was then known as the marine hospital fund was administered by customs inspectors in the seaports of the new nation. as the united states grew, so did the number of ports. marine hospitals and clinics sprouted on the east coast as well as the west coast and up the mississippi. anywhere there was a waterway in the growing nation. by 1870, the system needed to be revamped. the reorganization led to the appointment of the first surgeon general, john maynard woodward.
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he had been an army medical officer in the civil war. woodward put his officers in uniform, created a flag, and instituted the military system of appointment by merit. dr. woodward's reforms were formalized by law in 1889 when the commission corps of the marine hospital service was created. as the commission corps was expanding during the closing years of the 19th century, so was biological discovery. the scientific ferment brought changes to the marine hospital service. its hygienic laboratory, started in 1887, was a pioneer in biomedical research. it manufactured biologicals and trained scientists from state health departments and the techniques of producing them. years later, it became the national institutes of health, the heart of american medical research. in the latter part of the 19th
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century, the marine hospital service was given another major responsibility, boarding vessels arriving at u.s. ports to check passengers and crews for infectious diseases. this task had been handled by the states, but as immigration mushroomed, the responsibility was transferred to be federal government. at all ports of entry, the marine hospital service was in charge of inspection of arriving immigrants, including the most important of them at all, ellis island. the service pioneered the line. it was an efficient way to check for disease, blindness, and mental deficiencies. anyone who might become a public charge. more than 12 million immigrants, as many as 5,000 a day at times, passed through ellis island under the examining hands and watchful eyes of the marine hospital service. in 1902, the service was renamed.
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it became the public health of marine hospital service. in 1912, as legislation increased its scope, the name was simplified to be public health service. in the early 1900's, the service led the fight in investigating dozens of diseases and developing treatments for them. the service battled a serious eye disease that can cause blindness. the commission corps doctor took his team to be rural hills of kentucky. he established a hospital and 11 field clinics. he taught personal hygiene to local residents to stem the spread of inflammation. within 10 years, the incidence of glaucoma cases was reduced. they marshaled their energies in montana to combat rocky mountain spotted fever. the disease was carried by ticks on livestock and other animals. one doctor was sent to montana to find a way to control the
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disease. as he searched for a cure, he became infected with the disease and died. he was one of five officers that died from rocky mountain spotted fever. a vaccine to combat the disease was ultimately developed. one of the most perplexing diseases of the time was pellagra. 5000 people a year were dying from it in the early years of the century. scientist joseph goldberger carefully studied the disease, visiting the orphanages and prisons where pellagra struck most often. both doctors believed the disease started from infection. convinced of his own theories, goldberger and his wife had themselves injected with the blood of those that had the disease. his findings were
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startling. poor diet, not infection, caused pellagra. soon, it was conquered by inexpensive dietary supplements. the corps pioneered treatment of tuberculosis and bubonic plague control at risk to their own safety. officers fought battles in the laboratories and in the communities as well. in san francisco and other cities, the officers worked to vanquish the culprits in bubonic plague, rats and ground squirrels and their fleas. cleanup campaigns led to the control of the dreaded lague. venereal disease at the time of world war i was a major concern. the service developed tests and public education campaigns and ran research centers like this one in arkansas. workers took on child health as
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a responsibility, too. phs personnel traveled throughout the countryside of america, examining and inoculating youngsters against diseases such as typhoid. nd then there was the matter of keeping vital statistics. early work in biostatistics kept staffers busy. this was the personal computer of the 1920's. the population and interpretation of statistics relating to health and disease involve the phs then as now. at the center of phs work in the 1920's and 1930's was disease control and rural sanitation. many officers' attention were occupied. there were the good ones, the bad ones, and the worst ones. along with evaluating privies, the service designed, built, and distributed toilets. the bottom line was good out houses worthy of the approval of the public health service,
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like this one, bearing the phs seal. during those years, the service successfully battled with dozens of infectious diseases including malaria, typhus, yellow fever, and hookworm. during the 1920's and 1930's, the marine hospitals remained the core of the public health service. the hospitals employed the majority of phs personnel and served as a training ground for physicians, dentists, and other clinicians. as the 1930's wore on and the nation struggled its way out of the depression, the public health service became part of the cure. the social security act of 1935 was landmark legislation providing the phs with the authority to make grants to help develop and improve state and local health departments. >> one of the most significant advances in the public health has occurred in our lifetime.
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>> the surgeon general at the time was a publicist for the health causes of the day. he made syphilis prevention one of the mainstays of his mission. his outspokenness on the subject led to more public attention to venereal disease and its prevention. his conservative predecessor had served four terms in the position and generally opposed phs assistance in local health matters. in 1936, president franklin d. roosevelt relieved cumming as surgeon general and appointed the long-term public health officer. the essence of fdr's new deal resonated with his broader view of public health. during the roosevelt administration, 55 acres in then rural bethesda, maryland became the new home of the hygienic laboratory. >> the national institute of health speaks the universal language of humanitarianism. >> in 1930, the laboratory's name had been changed to the
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national institute of health. the move to bethesda prepared the nih for its period of rapid growth in the postwar years. 1941 saw the country's entry into world war ii. public health service officers served in several different branches of the armed orces. many were assigned to the coast guard and did everything from making seaborne housecalls while on convoy patrol to supporting amphibious landings. perhaps one of the most fundamental changes brought about by the war was in nursing. the strain of war on the country's health care system made it clear that something had to be done to increase the supply of nurses. the answer was the cadet nurse corps, which was formed to meet the need. women enrolled in nursing schools and received a free education.
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they were paid a salary by the phs and were obligated to perform military or federal service in return for their education. 85% of the nurses graduated in the years 1943 to 1946 were in the cadet nurse corps. the quality of nursing education was changed forever. as a result of phs policy and funding, nursing schools were no longer in the shadow of hospitals, which had previously been their sole sponsors. it was a tremendous boost to the profession. the phs' most important legacy from world war ii was the malaria control program, the mcwa. malaria control was a major activity in the american south during the war. at the end of the war, it became clear that the mcwa had developed an important role in infectious disease research and
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control, so it was continued, providing practical applications of public health techniques to problems such as typhus control. the agency remained at its atlanta base and was renamed the communicable disease center and later, as we know it today, the centers for disease control and prevention. with an expanded role, the cdc handles everything from highly toxic viruses to quarantine expertise for the space program. along with the valuable work of the cdc, phs dentists were making major contributions to the nation's health. in the 1940's, 95% of the population suffered from tooth decay. but in some parts of the country, people had low levels of decay. their teeth were modeled and fitted.
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phs researchers in the field and the labs were the prime detectives in solving the case. nih dentists determined the teeth were modeled because of elevated levels of fluoride in drinking water and that fluoride lead to a reduction in tooth decay. in 1945, grand rapids, michigan was the first city to test this proposition. at 4:00 p.m. in 1945, grand rapids began adding fluoride to its water supply. schoolchildren actively participated. the results were astounding. fluoride in the water reduced dental caries by as much as 60%. fluoridation became the principle public health strategy in the prevention of tooth decay. since the early 1900's, dental and medical care for native americans had been provided by phs personnel on loan to the indian field service. but in 1954, an act of congress
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transferred formal responsibility for the health of american indians to the public health service. it was the hope that a program administered by health professionals could improve the health of indians. that proved to be the case. by 1960, native american infant mortality had declined by almost 25%. the death rate from uberculosis by almost 50%. today, that program is an agency of the phs, the indian health service. public health physicians also serve the need of another often forgotten sector of the population, prison inmates. since 1930, phs officers have worked with the bureau of prisons, its facilities, and hospitals. environmental health issues surfaced in the 1940's. in towns like one in pennsylvania, smog made 6000
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people ill and killed another 120. along with air pollution, concerns about water pollution were mounting as well. radiation in the atmosphere from nuclear testing was apparent. the phs began to study radiation and its biological effects. environmental health concerns have stayed on the scene, growing in prominence. within the cdc, public health teams deal with toxic substances and since the 1970's, the national institute for occupational safety and health has dealt with a myriad of industrial and environmental issues. postwar development in biomedical research paid rich dividends and led to nobel prize honors for dozens of investigators, supported by nih rants. four nih scientists have been nobel laureates. one for breaking the genetic code. one for his work on the central
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nervous system. one won a chemistry prize for work on amino acids. and one for isolating a virus fatal among natives of new guinea. as reflected in the work, international health had become an area of importance along with notable successes. the cdc provided leadership for the global campaign that resulted in the conquest of mallpox. in 1967, the surgeon general had pledged phs personnel to the world health organization campaign against smallpox. more than 300 phs physicians, scientists, and public health workers, led by the cdc, went all over the globe to fight the battle. and they won. by 1977, smallpox had been eradicated throughout the world.
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in the 1960's, reorganization brought new programs to the phs fold. one of the most significant was the food and drug administration, which had been an independent agency since its inception in 1906. its original responsibility was for the protection of the american consumer against adulterated or mislabeled food and drugs. today, the agency sets standards in the areas of food, drugs, cosmetics, radiation, health, and medical devices. the agency has labored to expedite and improve the approval process for new drugs. reorganization in the early 1970's established the phs and its essential form of today. one of those changes was bringing programs for mental and addictive disorders
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together into one agency. today, the substance abuse and mental health services administration administers prevention and treatment programs in these areas while research activities in mental health and substance abuse are carried out by the national institutes of health. during the 1970's, the phs became heavily involved in the delivery of health services to poor, isolated populations. the community health center program supported more than 800 health centers throughout the country and provided medical care workers to these communities through the national health service corps. these programs remain a vital part of the public health service today, as the needs of the medically underserved continue to grow. the health resources and services administration supports both state and community efforts to serve those who are less fortunate and provides health care practitioners to staff those systems. the organization continues to support the education of health professionals through
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scholarships and training programs. to assure the quality and effectiveness of health services, the agency for health care policy and research has been established. it sponsors health services and medical outcomes research toward the goals of improving the practice, organization, financing, and delivery of health care services. the phs has led the national and global battle against hiv and aids, carrying out primary research on the virus and sponsoring prevention and treatment programs throughout the country. all of the agencies of the phs are engaged in this monumental public health campaign. the public health service is made up of both civil servants and commissioned corps members. in addition to staffing the agencies of the phs, the commission corps provides clinical and scientific personnel for the bureau of
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prisons, the coast guard, the environmental protection agency, and the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration. in the 1980's, the surgeon general captured the public eye, bringing visibility to health issues with his outspoken reports on aids and smoking. today, the public health service is part of the department of health and human services and the heads of its agencies, now called operating divisions, report to be secretary of health and human services. the assistant secretary for health and the surgeon general advise the secretary on health policy and programs. the operating divisions of the public health service provide clinical care while protecting the consumer through regulation of food, drug, and medical devices. the service also continues to conduct biomedical and behavioral and health services research throughout the united states and around the
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world. the phs maintains its tradition of public health campaigning with its healthy people program to promote health awareness and public action throughout the united states. and the service continues its scientific and public education battle against the epidemic of disease caused by tobacco. ♪ with a wealth of achievements and a proud history, the public health service protects and advances the health of the american people. it does so with its special blend of science and government, tradition, and topicality, public service, and personal commitment. its work continues to respond to the ever-changing mandates of science, the dictates of government, and the needs of the people. ♪
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>> this videotape is based on the book "plagues and politics: the story of the united states public health service." ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. presidency,"he hobart hoover presidential library director thomas schwartz talks about the life of the 31st chief executive. he explains the facility takes a broad look at hoover's career before, during, and after his time in the white house. the national archives foundation hosted this event and provided the video.


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