South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LXIV
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC PROGRESS, 1900-1948

Hospitals and Health. --A feature of the general humane and scientific spirit of the past generation has been the multiplication of hospitals and health services. Charleston early developed an active health department. The State Board of Health was created in 1878. The increase in hospitals during the past twenty years has been rapid, but still left South Carolina in 1940 with only 1.8 beds for 1,000 of population, as against 3.5 for the entire country. December 31, 1940, there were forty-nine general hospitals in South Carolina (several special hospitals and Federal institutions not included).1

The pure food laws of 1898 and 1907 were badly needed. For years spoiled meat had been regularly sold in South Carolina to certain classes. The outbreak of smallpox in December, 1897, caused a panic; but its complete eradication was long delayed by very partial enforcement of vaccination, which is rigidly observed only in the best-regulated schools.

Medical inspection from 1910to 1913 revealed the frightful degree of infection from hookworm in the Southern States. Of 415,000 school children examined in 413 Southern counties, 43 per cent were found to be infected. South Carolina was one of the worst sufferers. Rarely has an organized medical campaign resulted in more prompt and widespread conquest of a curse than has been the case with this debilitating disease, which has been largely responsible for the tradition of Southern laziness.

The course of pellagra has followed the rise and fall of prosperity, as it is entirely dependent upon the diet. The decrease of deaths from this cause from 729 in 1916 to 306 in 1920, a rise to 811 in 1930, and a decline to 163 in 1940, reflect not only the spread of knowledge but also the fluctuations of dietary conditions among the poor, accompanying the course of agricultural and business depression. A pathetic tribute we pay for ignorance and poverty is our high infant and maternity death rate. State instruction is now given to midwives, who deliver the vast majority of babies. The typhoid death rate has been reduced from 36

____________________
1
Forty-two hospitals in South Carolina received from the Duke Foundation during 1940, at the rate of $1.00 for each day of free bed service, $373,706. (Free bed days were 39.9 per cent of the total.) Orphanages, colleges, universities, and churches received a much larger total.

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