Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Classrooms and Clinics: Urban Schools and the Protection and Promotion of Child Health, 1870-1930

Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Classrooms and Clinics: Urban Schools and the Protection and Promotion of Child Health, 1870-1930

Article excerpt

Classrooms and Clinics: Urban Schools and the Protection and Promotion of Child Health, 1870-1930 By Richard A. Meckel (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013) (272 pages; $75.00 hardcover, $29.95 paper, $29.95 e-book)

Historian Richard Meckel's latest work, Classrooms and Clinics: Urban Schools and the Protection and Promotion of Child Health, 1870-1930 precisely proves the importance of understanding the historic complexities and challenges faced in the United States regarding children's health and education. His work fits into a broader scholarly category that uses the history of children and children's health to provide a unique lens to analyze the past. In Classrooms and Clinics, Meckel provides an in-depth analysis of the work of health-care providers, reformers, and urban school leaders who worked to improve the health of children and reveals nuanced social, political, and cultural themes from the late nineteenth century through the early years of the Great Depression. Meckel's work speaks to current gaps in scholarly literature through his analysis of particular national negotiations surrounding urban public schools and public education of children as well as the ways in which public schools interacted with attempts to improve child health.

Using a rich breadth of archival resources including government reports and public pamphlets, Meckel traces discourse surrounding child health as it moved through three somewhat distinct approaches: prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Though preventative services could be initiated in the classroom, separation of clinic and classroom became standardized as educators and physicians negotiated domains of power and practice. Meckel ultimately concludes that by the early 1930s, the school assumed a moral responsibility to provide a safe environment for education to occur and one in which health education should occur. But though the school could be a place of education, it did not end up as a place where children received corrective services or treatments; such services were reserved for the clinic or hospital, and decisions about the services that children received remained with the parents.

The question of who served as the primary gatekeepers to children and their health revealed an often difficult and complex system, much like we experience today.

Today, when we seek to provide "family-centered care," we recognize that to deliver care to children, we must work within an interdisciplinary team and include their families as primary decision-makers in the process within multifaceted social, cultural, and economic spheres. Meckel proves that this tension is not a new challenge. Classrooms and Clinics highlights the complexity of a broad system of influencers and decision-makers regarding children's health. Meckel reveals the complex and often nuanced realities including convincing families to vaccinate their children or seek medical treatment for identified problems.

While physicians played key roles serving as health inspectors, Meckel identifies nurses as important to the process of both identification of health concerns and providing successful treatment. …

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