The Greenwich Village district of Manhattan has a typhoid epidemic. The 58th victim fell sick last week. All caught the disease indirectly from an old man, one Frederick Moersch, carpenter, who had been helping his widowed daughter run a Village ice cream parlor. He is a typhoid carrier, immune to the disease himself, infectious to others. The New York City health department captured him and segregated him on a pest island in East River. He may be kept there for life because he broke his promise to the health department never to work around food which other people might eat. A woman, "Typhoid" Mary Mallon, is also there for life, for like cause.
Each city of the U. S., each county, each state, the nation, has its health officers. The most outstanding and efficacious is Surgeon General Hugh S. Gumming of the U. S. Public Health Service. Next to him may be ranked Health Commissioner Matthias Nicoll Jr. of New York State. With him might have been ranked Louis Israel Harris of New York City and Herman Niels Bundesen of Chicago. Both are now out of officeDr. Harris because he got a better paying job with New York milk suppliers, Dr. Bundesen because he did not truckle sufficiently to Mayor "Big Bill" Thompson of Chicago. Other health officers sympathized so with Dr. Bundesen that they last year elected him president of their American Public Health Association. His successor as Chicago's commissioner of health is Arnold Henry Kegel, who, technically untrained in public health work, is doing a fair job. In New York City Dr. Harris' successor is Shirley W. Wynne, who not yet has had opportunity to show his worth in improving general public health.
Very few health officers have that ability to improve conditions. They do the established, approved things; they watch water supplies, garbage disposals, food shop sanitation; they quarantine infected persons; they keep vital and epidemological statistics. They are mainly bureaucrats, jobholders. They must be constantly educated in their public health profession; they must be constantly egged to improve the health of their jurisdictions; they must be constantly pestered to teach their people selfhelp. And once a year they get those urgings in a massive dose.
The occasion this year took place in Chicago last week. The American Public Health Association met there; and the American Child Health Association, the American Social Hygiene Association. Illinois Health Officers & Public Health Nurses, The Women's Foundation for Health, Association of Women in Public Health, State Sanitary Engineers, State Laboratory Directors' Association, American Association of School Physicians.
At all meetings there was a plethora of papers read. The papers were cogent, instructive, inspiring; but how effective they would be upon bureaucratic health officers was a common rhetorical question in many a Chicago hotel room.