Navigating the future through the past: the enduring historical legacy of federal children's health programs in the United States

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The United States excels at treating the most complex medical conditions, but our low-ranking health statistics (relative to other countries) do not match our high-end health care spending. One way to understand this paradox is to examine the history of federal children's health programs. In the 1800s, children's health advocates confronted social determinants of health to reduce infant mortality. Over the past 100 years, however, physicians have increasingly focused on individual doctor-patient encounters; public health professionals, meanwhile, have maintained a population health perspective but struggled with the politics of addressing root causes of disease. Political history and historical demography help explain some salient differences with European nations that date to the founding of federal children's health programs in the early 20th century. More recently, federal programs for children with intellectual disability illustrate technical advances in medicine, shifting children's health epidemiology, and the politics of public health policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1848-1857
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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