4379.0 Private Philanthropy and Public Health: Lessons from Progressive Era America

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 4:30 PM
Though public-private public health partnerships have recently mushroomed, private entities have long assumed responsibility for the public’s health. Many early twentieth-century American public health campaigns were conducted by coalitions of philanthropists, corporations, voluntary organizations and governmental bodies. An examination of these coalitions’ challenges can inform current debates on the proper place of philanthropy and the private sector in public health. This panel involves presentations of several case studies: 1) Metropolitan Life Insurance’s foray into public health. Beginning in 1909, MetLife no longer merely excluded “poor risks” from coverage but began working to improve the public’s health to help eliminate risk all together. It became one of the greatest single collectors of public health surveillance data in America, as well as a major purveyor of preventive health services and information. This presentation will discuss why the life insurers chose to make a tremendous outlay toward public health, and how the legacy of those efforts is still reflected in the structure of private insurance and the practice of public health. 2) The American Red Cross’ pioneering worker First Aid campaigns. With a donation from the widow of a railroad magnate, and collaboration from state and federal government agencies, the ARC in 1911 sent doctor-equipped First Aid trains to mining districts and railroad depots to educate workers about injury prevention and treatment. This study will examine the motives for this partnership, how it worked, and the lasting ways in which early First Aid work has shaped contemporary beliefs about individual responsibility for workplace injuries. 3) Public-private partnerships for provision of public health services which defied traditional funding norms, as seen through the philanthropy of Elizabeth Milbank Anderson. While donors to non-profit organizations often assume that philanthropy involves a clear separation between private and public funds, this study shows that Anderson’s funding for public health in New York, including her program for public baths, involved a seemingly haphazard mixing of public and private funds. This presentation will discuss the reasons for such funding patterns, the controversies that they provoked, and how they anticipated complex public-private financing models for 21st-century health services.
Session Objectives: 1. To explain the unique role of philanthropy, the private and voluntary sectors in American public health programs. 2. To discuss the particular challenges of public-private collaborations in public health through study of historical example. 3. To demonstrate how historical examples can be used to inform current debates over public health.
Marian M. Jones, PhD, MPH
Marian M. Jones, PhD, MPH

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Organized by: Medical Care
Endorsed by: Epidemiology

CE Credits: Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH)

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