Safeguarding the Public Health: Newark, 1895-1918

Judith W. Leavitt, PhD
JAMA. 1976;235(18):2020. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260440070038.
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Stuart Galishoff examines the effects of germ theory on the work of the Board of Health of Newark, NJ, in the early years of the 20th century. Street cleaning and garbage collection gave way, under the impetus of bacteriology, to the use of specific remedies for contagious diseases.

Although slow to respond to pressing health needs of the immigrant population in the second half of the 19th century, Newark's Board of Health surged ahead rapidly in the 20th, adopting new techniques in its search for a healthier city. The bacteriology laboratory established in 1895 led the revival. Quick success with the use of diphtheria antitoxin established the laboratory's reputation and paved the way for improvements in the quality of the city's water and milk, in sewage disposal, and mosquito control. Infant mortality greatly diminished, malaria and tuberculosis rates decreased, and the board turned its attention to new concerns such as


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