The Politics of Public Health in New York
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Title Page, Copyright
The generous support of several funders made this book possible. I am grateful to the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Library of Medicine (grant number 5G13LM9159-2), the Greenwall Foundation Faculty Scholars in Bioethics Program, and the Milbank Memorial Fund for sustaining...
About the Author
Introduction: Public Health and the American City
The names of great scientists and healers are carved on the facade of 125 Worth Street in lower Manhattan, a frieze of the familiar, the vaguely remembered, and the forgotten: Hippocrates, Pasteur, Jenner, Lister, Koch, Nightingale, Shattuck. Bronze medallions depicting allegories of health adorn the exterior walls of the imposing ten-story...
1. To Provide or Protect
In the midst of a boisterous three-way mayoral race in the fall of 1965, the Health Department submitted a statement to the City Council explaining a deceptively modest element of its capital budget: a proposal to convert two of the nineteen district health centers to full-service outpatient clinics. “Health prevention and promotion on the one hand...
2. Public Health and the People
In late 1967, a few months after a confrontation in Tompkins Square Park between hippies and the police had escalated into a near-riot, the Health Department turned its attention to the youth counterculture. Illnesses prevalent among hippies included malnutrition, tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, and drug abuse (especially LSD and marijuana...
3. Dropping Dead
In the early 1970s, the Health Department’s staff continued to grapple with whether and how to address issues beyond their traditional purview— as they had done with lead paint, heroin addiction, and abortion— and what role they should play in providing clinical care. These debates reflected a broader soul-searching in American public health about the field’s mission and purpose. Should it be a force for social justice...
4. A Plague of Politics
Reports of prolonged, unexplained lymphadenopathy in the homosexual population in New York City recently prompted a record review of cases reported by several clinical investigators.” So began a research protocol written by Health Department epidemiologists in May 1982. In collaboration with officials at the Centers for Disease...
5. City of Misfortune
In May 1986, three weeks after being sworn in as the city’s new health commissioner, Stephen Joseph appeared before a joint hearing of the City Council and the Board of Estimate to answer questions about the department’s budget for the coming fiscal year. The event was largely ceremonial, but it gave Joseph the chance to advance his views of the...
6. Chronicle of an Epidemic Foretold
Leo Maker—thirty-eight years old, homeless, drug addicted, and sick with tuberculosis—seemed to personify the social disorder engulfing New York City when the Post ran a full-page photo of him on its cover next to the headline “One Man’s Trail of TB.” The exposé, the first of a series of articles on the disease in the fall of 1990, described how...
7. Threat Levels
One Monday in late August 1999, Marcelle Layton, the Health Department’s assistant commissioner for communicable disease, received a call from Deborah Asnis, a physician at Flushing Hospital in Queens, about two elderly patients there with unexplained and baffling symptoms. They were feverish, weak, and confused; in one the...
8. A New Public Health Agenda
Two months after the terrorist attacks, New Yorkers elected Michael Bloomberg, a businessman and philanthropist and the seventy-second-richest person in America, as their mayor. Bloomberg had made a fortune at the investment bank Salomon Brothers in the 1970s; in 1981 he had founded the financial news and information company that bore his name. His net worth was estimated at $4 billion. A...
Conclusion: The Politics of Public Health
The complicated relationship between public health initiative and the conditions of democracy is a theme running through the history of the New York City Department of Health in the decades around the turn of the twenty-first century. The technical tools of public health—data gathering and analysis, health education and promotion, sanitary inspection and regulations, community-based screening and...
Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2011
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