As National Public Health Week draws to a close, Beats Per Minute wants to recognize a few individuals whose accomplishments have effectively shaped the field of public health as we know it today. There are three historic figures who have inspired generations of public health leaders:
Sara Josephine Baker (1873-1945)
Sara Josephine Baker’s contributions to public health cannot be summarized with one story or study. She graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary in 1898 and served as Assistant Commissioner of Health in New York by 1907. There she focused on midwife training, basic hygiene, health education and the reduction of infant mortality. Baker supplied pasteurized milk for indigent families, developed a program to teach young girls basic infant care, allowing them to care for their siblings while their mothers worked, and created a school health program that was replicated across the country. When Baker retired in 1923, New York City had the lowest infant mortality rate of any metropolitan U.S. city. Baker’s efforts were instrumental in linking economic and educational factors to medical care and poor health outcomes. Her work at New York City’s Bureau of Child Hygiene served as a model for the United States Children’s Bureau.