Municipal Public Health Failures and Socioeconomic Differentiation during Pandemic Influenza in Philadelphia
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The Spanish Influenza pandemic caused more deaths than combat during World War I, killing over 30 million people worldwide.4 Mortality rates were high both on the war front and back in the United States. Urban areas were hit the hardest; experiencing an initial outbreak in September of 1918, Philadelphia led American cities with over 8,000 deaths.5 This paper examines how factors such as gender, class, ethnicity, age and physical location within the city functioned to determine one’s susceptibility to influenza and access to healthcare. This paper also directly implicates the Philadelphia Board of Health’s sluggish response as the major contributor to the city’s elevated death toll. Philadelphia Board of Health Director Wilmer Krusen’s reluctance to act provided citizens with a false sense of security; a key example of this was his refusal to postpone the aforementioned Liberty Loan parade despite rising influenza rates. 6 The city agency did little to educate the public or control the spread of influenza until thousands had already died. This lack of preparedness is a prime example of public health strategies cities should avoid; findings from this research can potentially be employed by present-day city health agencies to prepare for future disease outbreaks in densely populated areas.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2008
- F&M Theses Collection