Silent Victories: The History and Practice of Public Health in Twentieth Century America

Americans' health improved dramatically over the twentieth century. Most of this improvement resulted from the contributions of public health sciences and institutions to progressively challenge an increasing array of health problems. As old scourges of infection, perinatal mortality, and dietary deficiencies were conquered, public health's mandate expanded to take on new health threats of a changing workplace, the rise of the automobile, and chronic and complex conditions resulting from smoking, lifestyle, and other factors. Public health action often involved controversies and recriminations over past failures. In contrast, public healths many successes, even the imperfect ones, become part of the fabric of everyday life, a fact already apparent early in the last century, when C. E.A. Winslow reminded his peers that the lives saved and healthy years extended were the silent victories of public health. Silent Victories takes a unique approach in its exploration of ten major public health issues addressed in the 20th Century: for each issue, leading scientists in the field trace the discoveries, practices and programs that reduced morbidity and mortality from disease and injury, and an accompanying chapter by an academic historian or social scientist highlights key moments or conflicts that shaped public health action on that issue. The book concludes with a look toward the challenges public health must face in the future. Together, the authors reveal the lessons of history to students, health professionals and the public seeking to understand how public health advanced the country's health in the 20th century and challenges to protecting health in the future.