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July 24, 1991

The Sanitarians: A History of American Public Health

Author Affiliations

New York, NY

New York, NY

JAMA. 1991;266(4):576. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470040140043

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With The Sanitarians: A History of American Public Health, historian John Duffy sets out to provide the definitive modern sourcebook on the subject. Tracing the evolution of efforts to improve populations' health from colonial times to the present, the book centers around the institutional forms and foci these efforts have taken: the formation of municipal boards of health in the 18th century, the establishment of health agencies as permanent parts of local and state governments in the 19th, the shifting emphasis of public health from contagious to chronic progressive diseases in the 20th, and its accompanying shift in administration from state and local to federal levels.

Duffy organizes his book chronologically and thematically, dividing the history into well-justified trends. Exhaustively researched and copiously referenced, the book combines a diverse and enormous body of primary source material with a number of secondary source references and organizes them into a coherent whole.