Today we welcome the first of two guest posts from Wendy Gonaver, author of The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840–1880, just published this month by UNC Press. Though the origins of asylums can be traced to Europe, the systematic segregation of the mentally ill into specialized institutions occurred in the Unites… Continue Reading Wendy Gonaver: Jailing People with Mental Illness, Part 1
Today we welcome a guest post from Nortin M. Hadler, M.D., and Stephen P. Carter, J.D., authors of a new open-access pamphlet published by UNC Press, Promoting Worker Health: A New Approach to Employee Benefits in the Twenty-First Century. In this extended essay, the authors introduce a new approach to reforming the American health-care system–a… Continue Reading Nortin M. Hadler, M.D., and Stephen P. Carter, J.D.: Redesigning the American Health Care System
Today, we welcome a guest post from Dr. Muriel R. Gillick, author of Old and Sick in America: The Journey through the Health Care System. Since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the American health care system has steadily grown in size and complexity. Old and Sick in America takes readers on a… Continue Reading Muriel R. Gillick, M.D.: The Not-So-Secret Secret About American Health Care
Today, we welcome a guest post from Dr. Muriel R. Gillick, author of Old and Sick in America: The Journey through the Health Care System, on the founding of the national health insurance program we call Medicare. Since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the American health care system has steadily grown in… Continue Reading Muriel R. Gillick, M.D.: Happy Birthday, Medicare
Thinking about those issues was like entering a funhouse with distorted mirrors: people used the same words—patient, consumer, choice, value—and meant very different things by them. In search of the origins of this strange concept of the “patient as consumer,” I kept going back further and further, looking for where it came from. The roots turned out to be a lot earlier than I expected: the 1920s and 1930s, not the 1970s. Continue Reading Nancy Tomes: Remarks from the Bancroft Awards Dinner
Midwives were the dominant obstetrical and gynecological practitioners in Mexico in pre-Hispanic and colonial Mexico. Their medical knowledge was vast. Early post-conquest writers observed that Mexican midwives possessed hundreds of medical remedies to provide contraception, encourage fertility, counteract the side effects of pregnancy, assist in complicated deliveries, and treat postpartum complaints. They could soothe labor pains, initiate stalled labor, facilitate the placenta’s expulsion, encourage lactation, and soothe that most vexatious of post-partum symptoms: hemorrhoids. Continue Reading Nora E. Jaffary: Midwifery in Mexico
Q: How do you see the journal advancing research and teaching at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU)?
A: An important goal of any institution of higher learning is to advance the body of knowledge through research and scholarship. Given its important mission as a Historically Black College and University, WSSU was founded on principles of social justice, and promotes equity intentionally and comprehensively. A journal that addresses the need for a more diverse health professions workforce, therefore is consistent with the university’s mission. This journal has provided an opportunity for faculty to serve as peer reviewers and on publish their research that undergo the peer review process like any other submitted manuscripts. The journal has also provided an opportunity for graduate students to gain experience in working with authors from around the nation, to market the journal to potential subscribers, and to solicit articles for publication. Continue Reading Interview: Dr. Peggy Valentine on the Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity
One of the things that surprised me the most was that throughout the colonial period and up until as late as the 1860s, neither community members nor judicial authorities in Mexico seemed particularly troubled that women were procuring abortions. Continue Reading Nora E. Jaffary: Ancient Abortifacients in Modern Mexico
What is wrong with medical care? Physicians, rather than patients, make decisions. Continue Reading Robert Alan McNutt, MD: What’s Wrong with Medical Care?
In arguing that the jury had to find Laura “not guilty by reason of insanity,” Quint and Cook hoped to focus their attention around four central issues. At the heart of their case, they argued, was the notion that Laura was unconscious and irrational at the time of the murder. In contrast to the prosecution, which had relied on gossip and rumor to condemn Laura’s character, they would base their case on the latest scientific findings and medical expertise. By calling to the stand doctors with advanced knowledge and training, they would prove that Laura—much like Mary Harris before her—was a victim herself, captive to the effects of severe organic disease. Especially when her menstrual cycle approached, she experienced recurring bouts of hysterical mania that left her without control of her actions or awareness of events. Thus, no matter how heinous the act appeared, she was not responsible for its commission. Continue Reading Excerpt: The Trials of Laura Fair: Sex, Murder, and Insanity in the Victorian West, by Carole Haber
This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the passage of the Narcotic Control Act of 1956, a law that dramatically reshaped American drug policies. While the precedent for mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses had been established four years earlier, the Narcotic Control Act greatly expanded the scope of these sentences. Among its many clauses, the act raised the minimum sentence on some drug offenses to five years and allowed the imposition of the death penalty on anyone over the age of eighteen convicted of trafficking heroin to minors. This made the Narcotics Control Act the strictest drug law in the nation’s history—one that treated addiction as a plague that needed to be addressed through punitive measures. Continue Reading Holly M. Karibo: Cutting the Cancer of Drug Use Out of the Nation? Reflections on the History of Mandatory Minimum Sentences in the United States
Last year Mexico became the first nation in the world to impose a surtax on sweetened soft drinks. Policymakers justified the move by pointing out that people in Mexico consume more soda per capita than anywhere else in the world, a trend they argue fosters the nation’s high rates of obesity and diet-related disease. While governments around the world have also used economic incentives–or, in this case, disincentives–as a means of bolstering public health, Mexico’s soda tax does so on a much grander scale. A year later, in July 2015, public health researchers reported that consumption of soft drinks in Mexico fell by more than five percent. Many people hope for similar measures in the United States. California and New York are considering similar policies. New York City tried something similar a few years ago, before a judge overturned it, and the Navajo Nation just passed a junk food tax.
But the great Mexican soda tax debate can be viewed in a wider context than public health policy. It is, after all, also about the politics of capitalism and global trade. Continue Reading April Merleaux: The Mexican Soda Tax Debate
Whenever I mention that I have written a book about the eradication of smallpox, people usually look at me with equal parts fascination—“wow, that’s a great story to tell!”—and puzzlement—“Wait a second…smallpox? Eradicated? Really?” I love seeing this reaction. After more than six years of working on the topic, I sometimes forget that that’s exactly where I started. My initial reaction of familiarity with smallpox quickly gave way to confusion about the disease’s past and present. Continue Reading Bob H. Reinhardt: The Fascinating Puzzlement over Smallpox Eradication
A variety of factors contributed to the explosion of weight loss culture during and after the Great War, and one especially potent factor was the creep of metrics into daily life. The application of calories to food in the late nineteenth century and the emerging discipline of statistics resulted in well-publicized comparisons of food consumption and body weights between individuals and across populations. At the same time, life insurance statistics were revealing new correlations between excess weight and chronic disease. More and more Americans, meanwhile, were purchasing newly affordable home scales and buying their clothing ready-made, and thus increasingly thinking of their bodies in terms of numbers and sizes instead of, say, just making clothes to fit their individual bodies. Moreover, metrics grew more prevalent in daily life just as the motion picture industry was taking off and as a visually oriented print media continued to expand. Handed the tools to make physical comparisons, Americans eagerly made them. The growing ease of numerical and visual comparisons contributed directly to the valorization of thinness. But what accounts for the moral stigma that leeched onto the idea of being overweight? The answer lies at the heart of the Progressive ideology of self-control, a value that transcended the Progressive Era itself, both supporting and thriving within the enduring associations between thinness, willpower, and beauty. Continue Reading Excerpt: Modern Food, Moral Food, by Helen Zoe Veit
Parents sometimes hear about “routine childhood vaccinations,” but the current discussion about vaccines is anything but routine. In addition to pediatrician offices, the vaccination conversation is happening in unexpected places: the legislative halls of Oregon, California, and other states trying to stiffen childhood vaccination requirements; Twitter, where author Sherman Alexie invoked Native Americans’ historic experiences with deadly contagious diseases and railed against “superstitious, selfish anti-vaccination ***holes”; and late-night TV, where Jimmy Kimmel joked that parents in Los Angeles are “more scared of gluten than they are of smallpox.” Alexie’s vitriol and Kimmel’s barb invoke the history of smallpox and its eradication, a remarkable story that holds unexpected insights for today. Continue Reading Bob H. Reinhardt: Having the Vaccination Conversation
The way in which bullfighters put themselves repeatedly on the path of a half-ton of rage, shifting at the last moment, is shocking. I am especially awed by the tribute of the bits of their own flesh left on those horns. It makes me wonder what we historians are increasingly giving up by finding our sources in air-conditioned rooms with lockers and vending machines, where the only tribute we pay is a cordial email to a helpful archivist, who then gets a credit in the standard acknowledgements page. Remotely accessible digitized collections are already making some of our work possible from the convenience of coffee shops with Wi-Fi. Continue Reading Raúl Necochea López: When Historians’ Sources Get Demanding
Article 163 of the Penal Code defined therapeutic abortions as those demanded by women and performed by clinicians, in consultation with a committee of their peers, “if there is no other way to save a mother’s life or avoid a permanent and severe lesion in her.” However, Peruvian authorities at the time did not answer crucial questions to make the law applicable, such as which lesions counted as permanent and severe, or what interventions should be used to cause an abortion, or how far into a pregnancy an abortion could be provoked. Continue Reading Raúl Necochea López: Therapeutic Abortion Finally Regulated in Peru after Being Legal (Kinda) for 90 Years
From the summer of 1861 to the spring of 1862, each Confederate or Union soldier was sick an average of three times. It was also the norm for soldiers to shun official army medical care, as they found the medicines loathsome and dreaded being separated from their regiments, often familiar faces from back home. Though contemporary physicians were still caught up in such theories of disease causation as the four humors (the conception that illness occurred when the four main bodily fluids were in need of recalibration), laypeople preferred environmental explanations for sickness that could be confirmed by observation and personal experience. Continue Reading Kathryn Shively Meier: A Civil War Soldier Beats the Odds on the Virginia Peninsula
Soldiers on both sides pegged environmental circumstances as some of the most serious stressors of the war. Privates through non-commissioned officers, common soldiers rarely had traveled far from home before deploying. That meant the vast majority of them were transported to foreign environments that appeared extremely threatening based on popular notions of disease causation. Lacking conceptions of germ theory or insect-borne illness (theories developed in the 1870s and 80s respectively), mid-century Americans widely believed that a sudden change of location or weather and the air, water, and terrain of certain locales (particularly those of the South) caused life-threatening diseases, such as dysentery, malaria, and typhoid. It was clear to soldiers that disease claimed far more mortalities than combat; indeed, two-thirds of soldier deaths by war’s end would be from sickness rather than wounds. Nature appeared to be the soldiers’ fiercest enemy. Continue Reading Kathryn Shively Meier: Civil War Soldier Trauma in Unexpected Places
Poverty is often seen as a personal failure, whereas success is a mark of hard work; thus economic status serves a surrogate for individual self-worth, and not an indicator of society’s structure and its limitations. Poor men and women are still often portrayed in stereotypical terms as being lazy and unmotivated. Continue Reading Interview: Mical Raz on poverty, mental health, and U.S. social policy