The Battle for Health
Music: ... Organ fanfare ...
Announcer: The Columbia Broadcasting System, in co÷peration with the American
Public Health Association, presents: The Battle for Health!
Music: ... Strong chord, fading out as ...
Announcer: This week, in New York City, public health officials from almost
every republic of the Americas and representatives of the United Nations, are
meeting for the Wartime Public Health Conference ... For them -- and for all
Americans -- the Columbia Broadcasting System presents this program on The
Battle for Health. Later in the program you will hear Surgeon-General Thomas
Parran of the United States Public Health Service introduce Brig. General
James S. Simmons, this year's recipient of the Sedgwick Memorial Medal for
"Outstanding Achievement in Public Health."
Music: ... Fanfare...
Narrator: We are going to paint three pictures -- two portraits and a mural.
Together they will form a sketch --- a panorama of the Battle for Health. Many
names and events brilliant in the history of public health will not be
mentioned -- but their value is inherent in the story we tell. The Battle for
Health has not been a series of isolated skirmishes. It has been -- is today
-- an all-out, all-encompassing war against the greatest enemy of man --
Music: ... Chord...
Narrator: I wonder if you have ever heard of Lemuel Shattuck? He was a Boston
citizen -- born in 1793, died in 1859. In those days, as in our own, men were
quick to apply the epithet --
Haggard: (In fast) Radical! Agitator!
Shattuck: That will be enough of that, Mr. Haggard!
Haggard: You deny it, Mr. Shattuck?
Shattuck: Deny what?
Haggard: That you are appearing before this legislative committee with no
other thought in mind than to arouse the people of Massachusetts into a frenzy
of fear? Why? So that the medical profession can grow rich on the fruits of
fear! You keep shouting "Disease!" "Plague!" "Death!" And the people shudder
and shake and come running for potions!
Shattuck: That's a vile thing to say.
Haggard: Is it now?
Shattuck: What I propose would cut down the income of every physician in the
state. It would make our people healthy.
Haggard: So --- now you are a philanthropist!
Shattuck: I am merely a man seeking to better the lot of the people of this
country. I don't know why you --- and the other politicians -- are so against
Haggard: Then permit me to enlighten you, Mr. Shattuck. We consider your
proposals unnecessary, unGodly -- and unconstitutional!
Sound: Applause and murmur of Approbation
Shattuck: I don't understand why. This proposal is the result of an intensive
study of the health conditions of Boston made at the suggestion of some of our
leading citizens as well as those of the medical profession. Our report speaks
for itself. Conditions in this city are abominable. It is a disease-trap --- a
Haggard: (Interfering) I will not hear the good name of our city of Boston so
Shattuck: Defamed? Good Lord! Since when are facts libelous? Listen to me ---
don't interrupt! I want you to understand every word of what I say... I won't
annoy you with statistics -- nor with descriptions of what we saw -- I don't
think your fat stomachs are strong enough to take it. But I will give you some
choice warnings ... Listen to them -- unless we take immediate action --
prompt, efficient, all-embracing -- the population of Boston -- the whole
state for that matter -- is facing the greatest catastrophe in the history of
our nation. Smallpox, malaria, cholera, yellow fever, consumption, and a dozen
other deadly diseases are ripening right now in the overcrowded, unsanitary
slums of Boston. You talk of the good name of Boston! Rot! You're no more
interested in Boston than I am in Siam! You represent intrenched, vested
power! You fear a progressive, healthy, alert-minded populace! That is why you
are against this bill to set up in the city of Boston a board charged with the
responsibility of supervising the public health. Deny that --
Haggard: I do deny it!
Shattuck: Then why do you fight this proposal?
Haggard: I fight it on the Holy ground that God proposes and God disposes. If
it is His will that plagues and disease kill the sinners -- then they must
die! I fight your proposition on the ground that it is unconstitutional --
nothing in our basic law provides for the setting up of such an agency as you
suggest. That is my stand!
Shattuck: You dare to call on His name to back your perfidy! Why did God,
then, permit Jenner to discover the secret of vaccination? If it was His will
to destroy, why did he let the genius of man discover a way to circumvent His
anger? Why? Is it blasphemy to save the poor and sick?
Haggard: I - I did not mean that.
Shattuck: You say it is unconstitutional. I say it is basic democracy -- and
therefore the very essence of our Constitution! The agency we would set up
would be empowered to abate sanitary nuisances -- check up and report on the
appearance of contagious diseases in our community -- vaccinate against the
smallpox -- control the distribution and the use of patent medicines! Why --
this would be the people's health insurance -- paid for by them, controlled by
them, dedicated to their own betterment. As for the Constitution -- there is a
phrase in it concerning the Pursuit of Happiness, I believe --
Haggard: Yes --
Shattuck: There is no happiness for the sick and the afflicted. There is no
freedom for the child chained to slums and fever -- nor for his parents --
weak and crippled by disease. That is my answer to your objections -
Voice: (Off mike) Wait! I want to speak -
Haggard: Who are you?
Voice: (Coming on mike) Just a plain man of Boston. From the Fourth Ward...
Your Ward, Mike Haggard. Man, there is only this to say... We want to be
protected against disease. This man says the way to do it is by setting up a
health agency. You do it, Mike Haggard -- you hear me --- you do it! We people
want it -- and we'll get it! You do it, Mike Haggard - or just as sure as the
sun comes up over the Cape, you'll be patching your pants come next election!
Haggard: My dear constituent, I ---
Voice: I'm going back to the neighborhood, Mike -- and tell the folks what
I've heard! Will I tell them you will deny us the right to live? Eh, Mike
Haggard: No -- No, of course.
Voice: You will vote for this bill?
Haggard: I --
Voice: Speak up, man -- how will you vote?
Haggard: I -- I will vote for the bill!
Music: Tag, full, up and under ...
Narrator: That is the first portrait -- Lemuel Shattuck -- crusader, pioneer,
fighter for health. Lemuel Shattuck sparked the flame of democracy in the
hearts of the people -- and the people acted. The health department he fought
for was established -- the first such health organization on this continent.
Perhaps it was Shattuck who first inspired Stephen Smith. That was in New York
-- the year -- 1864. Stephen Smith -- a young physician battling for the
health of the million crushed within the limits of the City of New York. A
typhus epidemic was sweeping the city, and Smith was put in charge of the
hospital tents pitched on Blackwell's Island. He soon was an old hand at
filling out death forms --
Smith: What is the name of deceased, Billy?
Billy: Er -- let's see -- kind of hard to make out on this tag. O --
O'Donnell, I guess it is. That's it -- O'Donnell - Molly O'Donnell.
Billy: Address now -- Ah -- er --East 22nd Street!
Smith: That's the eighth death this week from that same block!
Billy: No wonder. I know the place, I do. A little patch of brimstone in a
furnace o' Hell!
Smith: Bill - will you take me there?
Billy: And why would you want to be going to such a dive?
Smith: I want to see how the people live.
Billy: The answer is that they don't live like people, Dr. Smith -- 'tis more
like cattle -- and starved cattle, at that.
Smith: Come on, Billy -- I want to see the place.
Billy: Right you are. Only plug up your nose and belt in your stomach -- 'tis
not the Garden of Eden you're visiting!
Music: ... Tag in and out ...
Sound: Off mike voices -- squeals of kids running about --
Billy: Whew -- and hold your nose, Dr. Smith!
Smith: (Gasping) Lord -- what a stench --
Billy: 'Tis a well-mannered word you use.
Smith: What holds this place together?
Billy: The smell. It cements the rotten walls.
Smith: How many people do you figure live here, Billy?
Billy: None that live. About six to a room that exist.
Woman: (Coming up - Irish) And what would you be wanting?
Smith: I'm Dr. Stephen Smith --
Woman: Get out!
Smith: But --
Woman: (Calls) Pete!
Smith: Now, madam, I am only --
Pete: (Coming up) What is it?
Woman: This one has come to see the sights.
Pete: So? Pretty -- what?
Smith: I'm a doctor. I've come because --
Pete: Because what?
Smith: Because there have been eight deaths from typhus registered from this
address this past week.
Pete: Eight? Man, you're way off. Eighteen, maybe. We don't count.
Smith: Why do you stay here?
Pete: And where might we be moving to? The Astor mansion?
Smith: There are other tenements?
Pete: Aye -- with rent to pay.
Smith: You don't pay rent here?
Pete: We come and go as we please.
Smith: Who owns the property?
Pete: The devil himself.
Woman: Make him get out, Pete. We don't want him here.
Pete: Aye. Out with you --
Pete: Out! Don't you have no respect for the dying? We're dying -- let us
alone to die in peace!
Music: ... Tag in and out ...
Bryant: I know the state of the slums in this city, Dr. Smith -- but what do
you expect me to do? I am a newspaper publisher --
Smith: Mr. Bryant, I've found out who owns the property. It wasn't easy --
because he kept his name fairly well hidden. But now I know it --
Bryant: Who is it?
Smith: Never mind the name -- just believe me when I tell you that he is one
of the biggest men of the city. I have spoken to him. He refuses to renovate
the place and make it habitable. There's only one way to make him act --
Smith: Threaten to expose the conditions of his property in the public
Bryant: Hm-m-m --
Smith: Let me have three reporters -- I'll get action --
Bryant: Right! Let's see if it works --
Music: ... Tag in and out ...
Sound: Street noises
Smith: Here comes his carriage now. When he gets out -- go to work.
Reporter 1: Watch us, Dr. Smith --
Sound: Horses up to stop
Sound: Carriage door open and man getting out
Reporter 1: Ah -- Mr. Cooper --
Cooper: Er -- yes.
Reporter 1: I'm from the Evening Post. Mr. Cooper, do you have a
statement to give us about your property on East 22nd Street?
Reporter 2: They call it a fever nest? What's your opinion, Mr. Cooper?
Reporter 3: Is it true that there is no provision made for the disposal of
sewage in your tenement?
Reporter 1: How many people have died of--
Cooper: What is the meaning of this?
Reporter 2: Just getting the facts for a newspaper story.
Cooper: Newspaper story? Uh-- ah--
Smith: Mr. Cooper--
Cooper: Dr. Smith. Please -- please -- come into my office with me.
Smith: What for?
Cooper: Ah -- er -- I've changed my mind about that tenement. Yes, indeed. I
-- I'll renovate -- clean it up -- anything -- but please, Doctor -- call
these men off! They musn't print a word!
Music: ... Triumphant tag in and under ...
Narrator: Stephen Smith's one-man crusade paid large and wholesome dividends.
The glaring violations of the simplest principles of health that existed in
the slum-centers of New York inspired a group of public-spirited physicians
and laymen to take positive and immediate action --
Music: ... Out ...
Smith: There's only one way to get the facts and prepare laws and measures to
improve conditions -- an intensive, city-wide survey of conditions. I have
called on you younger physicians to act as sanitary inspectors. The entire
city has been divided into zones -- each one of you will be assigned to a
single zone. Here's what we want! A complete, exhaustive report on conditions
-- the number of people in each room -- the state of their health -- sanitary
conditions -- each and every fact bearing on the health of the individual. It
will take time, money, effort. There will be only one reward -- a cleaner,
better city. I ask for your cooperation. Do I get it?
Sound: Shout of many voices in affirmative as
Music: ... Tags solemnly and under ...
Narrator: The report of this sanitary inspection of New York City in 1865 is a
classic, a masterpiece of stark, tragic, almost nauseating prose. A few
Voice 1: In 17 blocks, 55 houses contain 246 persons living in cellars
completely underground --
Voice 2: The mother, a wrinkled crone at thirty, sits rocking in her arms an
infant with pasty and pallid features that tell that decay and death are
usurping the place of health and life.
Voice 3: Sitting together upon the same broken box, lying together upon the
same dirty straw, covered by the same filthy shreds, you have a picture of a
mass of corruption and squalid misery gathered inside the walls of the
Voice 1: The attic rooms are used to deposit the filthy rags and bones that
are taken from the gutters and slaughter-houses.
Narrator: Enough! But remember this -- these were not isolated conditions,
found only in New York -- they were identical with the unsanitary, the fever-
breeding, the death-nourishing melting pots of humanity found in almost every
city of every nation on the globe. It was the result of an industrial
revolution that forgot the human decencies. But times were changing. In 1865--
Voice 2: A Bill to promulgate a Metropolitan Health Law!
Narrator: Passed! Passed by the representatives of the people for the people's
own protection! The repercussions of this triumph for municipal cleanliness
were world-wide! Administered by intelligent, scientific authority, the health
agency set up by the Metropolitan Health Law quickly justified its existence
-- cholera disappeared from New York. Malaria, dysentery, typhus -- all were
attacked -- all were vanquished! The death rate was halved -- halved again --
and in almost every city in the United States, the results of sanitation and
regulated public health were paying tremendous dividends in human life. The
Battle for Health was joined -- the issue was never in doubt!
Music: ... Up full, triumphantly and out ...
Sound: Outdoor noises -- birds, etc. -- steady hum of automobile motor, broken
occasionally as car bangs over a bump in road
Soper: Stop here, Bruce--
Sound: Car up and out
Soper: (Calls) Hallo! (Pause) Hallo! Anybody around?
Wilson: It gives me the creeps, Fred -- a valley of ghosts!
Soper: (Sighs) Just about! Nobody around, I guess--
Wilson: Probably all run off to the North --
Soper: Not all -- look at those graves.
Wilson: Umm-m --
Soper: (Cynically) The great and fertile valley of the Jaguaribe -- Brazil's
inland empire! Look at it!
Wilson: Empty huts -- broken doors --
Soper: And why? (Vicious slap) Because of this - a mosquito!
Wilson: Not just a mosquito, Fred -- give credit where credit is due -- a very
special mosquito. Hail the Caesar of the insect world -- Anopheles
gambiae! (Lowers voice) Anopheles gambiae -- dirty little
devils! Come on -- let's get out of here!
Music: ... Tag in and under ...
Narrator: And this was not decades ago. This was 1938. 1938! Years after
Pasteur had proved the germ theory -- Lister had demonstrated the power of
sterilization -- Koch had discovered the tubercle bacillus and Ehrlich had
reached the magic number of 606. Florence Nightingale had long passed away --
the names of Walter Reed and William Gorgas were in history. Landsteiner had
typed blood and sanitary engineering was an honored profession. 1938! The
scourge of typhus had almost disappeared from the earth -- cholera was driven
back to the wild hills of Asia from whence it came -- diphtheria was conquered
-- yellow fever was only a grey memory on the American continent -- the death
rate from tuberculosis was slowly but surely -- falling! 1938 -- and an
authority could still predict:
Voice: If gambiae malaria is not eradicated at once, a large part of Brazil
and many other countries on the American continent face almost certain
Narrator: This was 1938!
Music: ... Up dramatically and out ...
Barreto: It is an interesting proposal you make, Dr. Soper --
Soper: The reconnaissance trip Mr. Wilson and I have just concluded through
the stricken area, Dr. Barreto, fully justifies these recommendations --
Barreto: But complete species eradication -- that -- that is rather a
startling thing. Ambitious -- perhaps too--
Soper: One hundred thousand people have become affected -- about 20,000 have
died -- since gambiae malaria entered Brazil! This specific type of malaria is
rare and deadly - not the usual curable form of the disease. The only way to
attack is to kill - wipe out - eradicate the source! And we can do it --
Soper: We have a number of things on our side. One, the nature of the insect
itself. Luckily, it's highly domesticated -- it only breeds near humans. We
don't have to worry about it spreading in the unpopulous jungles and swamps of
Barreto: Yes -- that's true enough.
Soper: Second, we have some weapons at our command. The Yellow Fever Service
that has so successfully controlled and eliminated that disease from Brazil
can give us trained personnel.
Barreto: But the Service is hardly large enough to attempt species eradication
of this mosquito.
Soper: Then we'll expand it! It will be expensive -- the Lord only knows how
much it will cost but it must be done. I can only speak for the International
Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. We are willing to contribute
money and time -- trained personnel and equipment.
Barreto: All right, Dr. Soper. I can speak for the government of Brazil. We
will appropriate the necessary funds and make the suggested transfer of
personnel from the Yellow Fever Service. When do you think we should start?
Soper: Now. Right now. And it's not one minute too soon!
Music: ... Tag in and up and under ...
Narrator: Now the combined wrath and genius of the Americas was turned on
Anopheles gambiae. The spindly, brownish-yellow killer that had
smuggled its way into the New World early in 1930, perhaps on a fast French
destroyer, was the tiny object of the greatest man-hunt in modern history. The
Malaria Service of the Northeast was not a haphazard collection of scientists,
day laborers, and hangers-on! It was war -- and like all phases of modern
conflict -- planning and organization preceded every move! The General Staff
planned its strategy -- the cartographers made maps -- the engineers made
surveys - the intelligence made reports. Then -- only then -- the infantry
went into action --
Music: ... Out....
Sound: Knock on door
Woman: (Off mike) Who is there?
Pablo: Disinfecting squad.
Woman: Oh -- come in.
Sound: Door open
Pablo: Good morning. Where is the bedroom?
Woman: Back there. My husband is still asleep.
Pablo: Umm-m. In here, men.
Sound: Footsteps -- door open
Sound: Deep snoring of man
Pablo: All right -- open the umbrella --
Sound: Umbrella opening
Pablo: Yes. We use it to catch mosquitoes. Watch how. First we open it. It is
square, you see -- that is to make it easy to get into corners. Now -- over
the umbrella, I use my spray gun loaded with insecticide like this --
Sound: Flit gun
Pablo: You see -- the mosquitoes that hang on the roof and the walls fall into
the umbrella. So.
Pablo: Then we gather all the mosquitoes -- put them in a box and send them to
headquarters at Fortaleza. They examine them and see how many gambiae we have
caught! That's how they know how to control the disease. You understand?
Woman: I --- I think so. (Suddenly) Joao! Joao!
Joao: (Suddenly aroused) Eh? Ah?
Woman: We are being disinfected. Get up!
Joao: (Sleepily) Oh ----- Oh, yes. How do you do?
Pablo: How do you do? We are sorry to disturb you, sir. We will start with
this room and then work through the house to the kitchen.
Joao: (Getting up and yawning) I am going to the kitchen ---
Woman: To eat?
Joao: No ---- to sleep. (Yawns) Wake me up when you get there.
Music: ... Tag in and up and under ...
Narrator: The disinfecting squads used insecticides in the homes and Paris
green on every pool of open water they could find. Chief inspectors checked
their work - and Post inspectors checked on them ---- it was an army of
thousands battling an enemy of millions. Quickly the people of Brazil realized
that here was a fight for their own existence. They changed from casual
onlookers to active participants --- it became a national crusade. And then
the map began to reveal wonders!
Voice 1: December, 1939 ------ Gambiae has disappeared from Cascavel and
Voice 2: March, 1940 ---- Gambiae has been driven out of Assu and Ico!
Voice 3: May, 1940 ---- Gambiae has been eliminated from Jaguaribe!
Voice 1: July, 1940 ---- Gambiae has disappeared from Coera Mirim ----
Music: .... Strong chord ...
Narrator: Back ---- back from the interior ---- back almost 1,000 miles to the
Atlantic Coast ---- the invader was driven! By September, 1940 --- two years
from the start of the campaign --- Anopheles gambiae --- scourge
of Africa --- was wiped off the face of America. Gone ----- eradicated ---
finished! They said it could not be done ---- and it was done! Done by
the united action ---- the united genius of the Americas! Take pride in that -
-- all you of America --- hear this, and be proud. Gambiae malaria is gone
---- gone into limbo along with typhus and cholera and yellow fever! Will it
return? Will the other scourges return? There is only one answer --- vigilance
--- constant, sleepless vigilance! In the Battle for Health, all free people
are united! In the Battle for Health, there is never a truce! Keep alert,
America ---- keep strong and ever healthy!
Music: ... Sweep up full and out...
Announcer: This week ---- in New York City --- the Wartime Public Health
Conference has met the problems of disease control in a battle-torn world. The
manifold difficulties of public health under these conditions is being met by
united action and modern scientific control! The public health officials of
the Americas and the United Nations are the staff officers in this eternal
struggle for human life --- they are the key men, the pioneers in this never-
ending crusade for better health -- for a better world!
Music: ... Up full and out ...
Originally broadcast: October 14, 1943