Advances in public health have been possible due to the contributions of people with ideals of change who decided to make a difference in their communities through the creation of innovative ideas capable of changing the lifestyle of a community. Public health is about helping people to stay health and protecting them from psychosocial factors that may affect their life. That is why the public health worker must have a passion for a change and for a better quality of life for their community. In the beginnings of public health there were two people who acted as agents of social change, Sara Josephine Baker and Clara Barton.
Sara Josephine Baker (1873-1945) was a physician working toward improving the public health care and reducing infant mortality rates substantially in New York City (encyclopedia.com). Her first job was to examine children in a public school; she was allotted one hour for every three schools and could send home any child who was sick (Harvard square library, 2018). Baker was the first woman to receive a doctorate in public health and was in charge of the division of child hygiene, a department created to try to reduce child deaths. As part of this department she was given the task of identifying every sick child in an area known as “Hell`s kitchen, and how not to call it like that, if every week an estimated 1,500 children died due to dehydration and diarrhea”. Sara J. Baker decided to create an innovative plan to promote public health and inform the population about the importance of prevention.
In fact, all the problems that she had to identify made her develop a series of programs in search of decreasing or eradicating infant death. Sara J baker decided to develop innovative projects like the milk stations throughout the city. In this program the nurses provided attention to the babies and they were given milk of good quality and at a reasonable price helped to prevent thousands of deaths. Another good program was the little Mother League; through this program nurses instructed school girls in the feeding, exercising, dressing, and general care of infants (encyclopedia.com, 2004). Another great project that Baker implemented was a foster care program, giving those orphaned children a better quality of life.
During her years of practice, Sara J Baker was successful in reducing infant mortality, but it made her confront multiple situations of discrimination. Baker lived in a time when women should not have occupied positions of men. Numerous attempts were made to remove her from her position. Her career set a precedent and made her acquire public favor. Some people marched to prevent her from being destitute, but it was not the only thing she had to face. Her students also discriminated and criticized her for being a woman and a teacher and they tried to silence her by applauding while she read to keep her in silent. One of Josephine Baker’s most famous professional tasks was tracking down Mary Mallon, an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever. in 2018 Biography magazine stated, “She was presumed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died.” (P. 5).
Many were the reasons that encouraged her to fight for the rights of women and specifically the right to vote in elections and make their voices count. She was one of 500 women who marched and met with the President Woodrow Wilson at the White House with a group of supporting women’s suffrage (Harvard square library, 2018).
Clara Barton was undoubtedly an excellent pillar of public health, she was an independent nurse and educator. She made many efforts to help others to face the harsh reality that surrounded her.
She decided to help the soldiers in a way she could and decided to collect and distribute supplies for the union army to help the wounded soldiers was for a project called “the angel of the battlefield”.
After the war ended, Clara Barton began working for the War Department, gathering families and seeking information about those who had disappeared. Clara Barton traveled to Europe and worked with a relief organization known as the International Red Cross. When she returned to the United States, she started to work as the first president of The American Red Cross Society, founded in 1881. Similar to other figures of her time, Barton faced various criticisms and accusations related to her position as president: She was accused of internal power struggles and claims of financial maladministration. Barton was known by all as an autocratic leader, she never took salary from the organization and often used her own money to support relief efforts. these accusations were not enough to stop her. Barton remained active, giving speeches and lectures.
All changes bring about a revolution in the environment. These changes confront the feelings and thoughts of others. Sara J Baker had a lot of persistence, focus and personality. Since in those times and with all the difficulties that she had to face, she knew how to maintain her calm and focus on wanting to change the reality that affected her city at that time. It is that determination that causes changes. Baker was not satisfied with just identifying the problem, she tried to discover the root of the problem in order to solve it.
Sara Josephine Baker had to face the displeasure of others, specifically men, since women did not traditionally hold her position. Even in her role as a teacher, she faced mistreatment of her students. Baker being known as a person with total, love for the neighbor was accused of financial mismanagement that did not stop them, but with their heads held high decided to continue working with the same ideals and demonstrating perseverance to change the environment, her city and her country. What differentiates each figure are their role Sara J Baker, as a doctor, worked on the clinical area of public health, working on diseases prevention. In contrast with Clara Barton who was more social. Barton worked in order to help the wounded soldiers during the war and when the American Red Cross was founded, it continued its work helping others.
Many of the programs that have emerged to help the community have been created thanks to the work done by the pioneers of public health like Sara J Baker. She created the supervision of sick children in schools which has led to create programs in the schools that nowadays ensure the welfare of the children who attend. The first foster care program was developed and has served to protect thousands of children today. Baker focused a lot on hygiene and to help care for the children for parents who worked. These projects continue to exist today with many improvements and with a greater scope. Clara Barton was dedicated to help others selflessly and that allowed her to found the American Red Cross, an agency that works to help others and also follows and has improved upon the same vision of its founders. Both Baker and Barton marked a precedent in public health and gave way to the refinement of
the ideas and projects that initially developed for the same purpose; the welfare of the community.
The best way to influence a population is doing activities and getting involved with the needs of the people. The factors that intervene in the development of a disease can be identified better and faster when working and researching the affected population. There is no doubt that
training and promotion are important tools when developing activities that integrate a specific group. The activities make the study population feel committed to the team that tries to work with the needs of the community, creating within the group a point of support and an optimistic air, capable of achieving a change. When the population in study know that there are people or institutions interested in changing their reality, they make them cooperate and the change is generated.
the figure that I identify most could say that it is Sara J Baker. I think that having knowledge of medicine and knowing how diseases behave is important to public health. Being a Latina, I am often worried seeing how many people around me do not get medical care not because they do not have access to them, but because of the lack of information, which causes their illnesses to worsen. Sara Baker, stimulated by necessity, simply created ideas and projects that turned out to be the way out of those problems. I believe that if I am driven by the need of my Latin community and Anglo community I can create ideas, plans and projects that can solve some problems in my community and city.
Baker, Sara Josephine (1873-1945). (2017, April 18). Retrieved June 04, 2018, from http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/sara-josephine-baker/
Changing the Face of Medicine | S. Josephine Baker. (2015, June 03). Retrieved from https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_19.html
Clara Barton. (2018, February 27). Retrieved June 04, 2018, from https://www.biography.com/people/clara-barton-9200960
Sara Josephine Baker Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved June 04, 2018, from http://biography.yourdictionary.com/sara-josephine-baker