Special Communication
September 22/29, 2004

International Efforts to Control Infectious Diseases, 1851 to the Present

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Center for the History of Medicine (Drs Markel and Stern), Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Program in American Culture (Dr Stern), and Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and Department of History (Dr Markel), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

JAMA. 2004;292(12):1474-1479. doi:10.1001/jama.292.12.1474

Many 21st-century observers explain international efforts to control infectious diseases as a function of globalization and recent transformations in international commerce, transportation, and human migration. However, these contemporary global health initiatives can be more fully understood by also exploring the origins of international health organizations and regulations, which were initially dedicated exclusively to stemming the tide of infectious epidemics. This article reviews 3 eras of international approaches to controlling infectious diseases (1851-1881, 1881-1945, and 1945 to the present) and concludes by assessing how nations have a strong fiscal and humanitarian incentive to invest in infectious disease control programs and infrastructures in and beyond their own borders.