Pediatrics and Early Childhood Care

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"The Health of the Child Is the Power of the Nation, Children's Year," 1918. Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources via North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, medical and health institutions specifically for children were rare. In fact, in the absence of an organization for the protection of children, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals handled its first child abuse case before its founder established the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1874.

With a high birth rate and rapidly growing population, it was inevitable that the medical profession would increase its attention on child care in the late nineteenth century. In 1861, Dr. Abraham Jacobi, known as the “Father of Pediatrics,” established the first children’s clinic in the New York Medical College.

The Commonwealth Fund, a charitable organization that sought to improve health services, established the Child Health Demonstration Committee to investigate models for preventive care services in communities. In the 1920s, four pilot locations were established in North Dakota, Georgia, Tennessee, and Oregon, and their services were extremely successful in reducing child mortality rate in a few of these communities.