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December 8, 1951


JAMA. 1951;147(15):1416-1418. doi:10.1001/jama.1951.03670320016007

Maternal and child health programs really need to be discussed in relation to public health programs in general, since they represent phases, although important phases, of general public health activity. Public health begins when certain conditions exist: First, medicine accepts a theory of rational causation of disease, indicating a point of application for preventive measures. Then scientific methods become available for the prevention, amelioration, or cure of disease. Finally, the community accepts responsibility for the distribution of appropriate services. Health departments and their programs take their origin and growth from these three principles.

A hundred years ago maternal and child health programs were unknown. It took the combined efforts and persistence of Simon, Southwood Smith, Pasteur, Semmelweis, Jacobi, Holmes, Baker, Rotch, and Franklin Roosevelt to establish the foundation on which modern programs of mother and child care rest. Public health operations in the child health field antedated those in maternal