Skip to main contentU.S. National Library of MedicineU.S. National Library of Medicine

Profiles in Science
Pinterest badge Follow Profiles in Science on Pinterest!

The Florence R. Sabin Papers

Letter from Florence R. Sabin to Robert Sommerville pdf (717,136 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from Florence R. Sabin to Robert Sommerville
In this draft letter Sabin reports on the Health Committee's activities, explaining what is being done to assess public health in Colorado.
Item is handwritten.
Number of Image Pages:
12 (717,136 Bytes)
1945-11-18 (November 18, 1945)
Sabin, Florence R.
Sommerville, Robert
Original Repository: Smith College. Sophia Smith Collection. Florence Rena Sabin Papers
Reproduced with permission of Geraldine F. Swan.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Public Health
Exhibit Category:
Sabin's Third Career: Public Health in Colorado, 1939-1951
Box Number: 22
Folder Number: 8
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Drafts (documents)
Physical Condition:
1333 E. 10th Ave --
Denver -- 3. Colorado --
Nov. 18 -- 1945 --
Mr [sic] Robert Sommerville,
The Boulder Daily Camera
Boulder, Colorado --
My dear Mr. Sommerville,
I am glad to reply to your letters of November 8th concerning conditions of health in Colorado. As you suggest when Dr. Buck's studies are completed we shall know much more about conditions in our State.
In general we have now four sources of information. First there are the startling figures of the percentage of rejections for the armed services for reasons of health -- given out by General Hershey -- The full list, which was published in the Rocky Mountain News is appended but I quote a few figures here --
Percentage rejected
Oregon 24.4
Kansas 25.4
Utah 26.1
Washington 28.2
Wyoming 29.1
National Average 39.2
Colorado 43.1
Southern Stats[?] and Vermont 44.7-56.8
The first five are to show how much better neighboring western states were than Colorado -- The analysis of [ . . . ] figures has not yet been released by the Army.
Second there is a voluminous and authoritatin [sic] report of the Denver Metropolitan Planning Project, the Health Section of which was organized in 1943. I obtained my copy from Dr. A.C. Tilley, Assistant Regional Director, 329 Equitable Building, Denver. The report is marked "Preliminary report, not for publication" but the data has been used by everyone studying and reporting on our health conditions. I think that you could get a copy.
Third, there are the files of the State Health Department under Dr. Roy Cleere. His files are a mine of information and he is eager to have his data made known.
Fourth, there are the files of the U.S. Public Health Service, District 8, under Dr. Fred Foard, Colorado Building, California and 16th St., Denver.
From the report of the Denver Metropolitan Planning Project, I will quote the table of average death rates per 100,000, population from 20 causes of death as of 1937-1941.
Average Death Rates per 100,000 Population from Twenty Causes of Death in the U.S.A., Colorado (exclusion of the Denver Metropolitan area), and in the Denver Metropolitan area, 1937-1941. Non-resident Deaths not Included.
In this table the diseases in which we are especially interested are those for which we have much knowledge -- in their[?] entirely adequate knowledge for their prevention -- These are notably certain infections of childhood, for example diphtheria; infections of the digestin [sic] tract such as typhoid and all the dysenteries; and tuberculosis --
Diphtheria. This is a disease for which we have adequate and safe methods of immunization. In a recent number of the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1945, Vol. 129. No. 10. Nov. 3. page 679 is an article entitled "Diphtheria can be prevented." It states,
"In 1943 the death rate from diphtheria at all ages fell below 1 per hundred thousand for the first time. At the same time the death rate in children under 10, in whom the disease is most frequent has fallen below 5 per hundred thousand. Wide
variation in the size of the diphtheria rates among children occurs however, in different states. Using the average figures for 1940-1942, Delaware without any deaths from diphtheria under 10 during these three years, appeared at one extreme and, at the other, Arkansas and South Carolina with 13.7 deaths per hundred thousand and Oklahoma with a rate of 13.5. The available methods for curtail[?] of diphtheria are sufficient to allow complete elimination of this disease in the United States."
In view of this what is our condition in Denver. For the five years from 1940 to 1944 Denver had 946 cases of diphtheria and 23 deaths, that is a little less than 200 cases per year. In 1945 from January to September there were 231 cases and from January
through June 12 deaths -- these figures are from Dr. Cleere's files and show that our conditions are not improving. I tried for figures from the counties but reporting is too irregular to make comparisons fair.
What is necessary to eliminate diphtheria? First a local health department under a competent, professionally trained public health officer, who will win the co-operatin [sic] of the medical profession to immunize children and give reports to the health department. Second adequate numbers of public health nurses to educate parents to use these facilities. A modern health department is responsible to furnish information about method [sic] of immunizatin [sic] for the other diseases of children[?] as fast as they became established.
Another marked delinquency in Colorado is in regard to infections of the digestive tract. Typhoid fever and the dysenteries are controlled by establishing a pure water supply, pure [ . . . ] and proper disposal of sewage. In the October number of the Reader's Digest is an article in our Dead and Dying Streams which shows that many rivers all over the United States are being overloaded with sewage far beyond their capacity to purify themselves. Conditions in Colorado make biological stream purification exceptionally difficult for we have both scanty and periodic stream flow. Beside this we use the contaminated waters for irrigation -- You know that
250 soldiers at Lowry field were ill with dysentery proven to be caused by eating cabbage contaminated with Denver sewage water -- You also know that Dr. Cleere recently advised 68 towns in Colorado to improve their facilities for sewage disposal. Since the dysenteries in general are not reported one cannot tell the amount of unnecessary illness involved but we know that in Denver at least the number of cases is large.
Another important public health problem in Colorado is wide spread Brucellosis or Bangs disease of cattle -- one county has 40% infection of cows. This is a disease of goats, cattle and swine causing abortion -- thru milk and cheese from goats and cows it is transmitted to human beings --
For its elimination we need a state wide testing of cows with appropriate measures for eliminating the infection, measures for eliminating the infection, -- but in the meantime we need state wide Pasteurization of milk -- only twelve cities in Colorado have Pasteurization, namely Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Trinidad, La Junta, Leadville, Palisade, Grand Junction, Julesberg, Greeley[?] L[ . . . ] and Fountain; and only two counties have it, namely El Paso and Las Animas.
I am sending you a copy of an especially important report in Public Health Services prepared at the U.S. Public Health District 8 in Denver of which Dr. Fred Fraid[?] is directing and a copy of the Bulletin containing reports of the Colorado Conference of Social Welfare which has interested
notes in health -- I enclose also a copy of my first report to the Governor which is I think correct except that I gave a far too optimistic on tuberculosis -- A survey of our hospital facilities for tuberculosis patients has been made but the final report is not yet available, but a preliminary verbal report indicated a marked lack of hospital beds in Colorado. This means that we are not abreast the times in a preventin [sic] program. We do not yet have effective immunization against tuberculosis but the death rate for this disease has been shifted from[?] the first to the eighth place by hospitalization and education of open cases, by finding all contacts and by skilled treatment. In spite of our long experience with this disease in Colorado we are
singularly back now in preventing its spread -- when the report is available we shall hope for state wide education in the prevention of tuberculosis.
I think that you will also be interested in a Diagnostic Clinic for Rheumatic Fever being conducted at the Colorado General Hospital. We do not know why the incidence of this disease is so high in the Rocky Muntain [sic] area, nor how to prevent it, but we do know that skilled medical care reduces the damage to the heart indicating a great need for facilities for convalescent care --
I hope that this will give you some of the data you need --
Very sincerely yours--
Florence R. Sabin
Metadata Last Modified Date:
Linked Data:
RDF/XML     JSON     JSON-LD     N3/Turtle     N-Triples