In the early 1920’s the United States Public Health Service section on Public Health Education supplied a daily health column, “Uncle Sam, M. D.,” for publication in newspapers throughout the country.

Combined with a system of questions and answers; the column supplied news on health matters two or three times a week to 10,000 newspapers, periodicals, and organizations. It also supplied health articles to the Foreign Information Bureau and produced motion-picture films to build a stereopticon loan library.

It was mostly newspapers in the west that carried the column.  The easiest to find are The Bismark Tribune and The Ogden Standard-Examiner.

One of the longest installments is one of my favorites.  It appeared in April 1920.

Public health

If you want better health, pay the price. Money spent in protecting the health and the likes the people is the best of all investments. Don’t be too eager to pass more health laws; provide sufficient means enforce those already on the statute books.

It is a well-known axiom that public health is, within certain limits, a purchasable commodity, and that each community practically fixes by its sanitary policy its sickness and disease rates from such preventable diseases as typhoid fever, malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox, etc. The best indication of the adequate or inadequacy with which a community is handling his health problems is shown in the ability of the existing health organization to lessen the prevalence of sickness.

In the interests of economy and efficiency, for instance, all sanitary work, be it child hygiene, industrial sanitation, school hygiene, milk control, etc, should be centralized and coordinated under properly equipped departments of health. Local health administration must be strengthened by the employment of health officers giving their entire time to their duty and fully responsible to the state department of health. The public health service holds that at least 2% of the public revenue should be spent for sanitary work, since for no other expenditures is so much profit ultimately derived.

Some of the Uncle Sam, M.D. Q&A’s

Click individual items to expand and read them.

Prevention of Complexes

Question: I have a daughter of 16. She has such a temper of late that I really don’t know what to do. Not only that, but she has no ambition to do anything. Many’s the time I hear her throw herself upon the bed crying, “I wish I was dead, I have nothing to live for.” At any little thing her temper will rise.

She weighs 126 pounds. My husband and I have talked to her, telling her nicely not to be so, but it makes no difference. Of. late, she has begun hating men, because she hears of so many girls getting into trouble by them. She is pretty and many a man turns to look at her, making the temper come back worse than ever. Headaches follow. Do you think it is serious? Ought I to see a doctor?

Answer: Your daughter has arrived at the age in which she is undergoing tremendous physical and mental readjustments and requires very careful supervision to prevent the formation of “complexes” which may mar her whole future. The origin of the complex is easily understood if you recall that all of us are born possessed with certain primitive instincts such as love, fear, hatred, anger, self-protection, and the sex instincts. These instincts are more or less restrained in all of us by training and certain social customs and usages. However, in spite of these restraints, one or more of these instincts may be so strong in a given individual as to set up a subconscious conflict between primitive desire and the instinct on the one hand and the restraints of training and social usages on the other.
The result of this complex may be something different from either the desire or the restraining influence, such as bizarre, queer and unusual actions and impulses. This is known as a complex. You see, therefore, how important is that your daughter should be properly guided during this highly impressionable period. This guidance should be based on the advice of a physician qualified to give such advice following examination of your daughter.
If you will send me your name and address, I shall be glad to send a mental hygiene leaflet for teachers which will give you some idea the development of faulty traits of character which seriously interfere with the child’s adjustment to his or her environment in later life.

The Brisbee Daily Review, December 31, 1920

Details about the totally unrelated top image: Print shows Uncle Sam sitting in a chair with pillows behind his head, convalescing, before him is a table filled with various medicines, including “Bland-Allison Silver Mixture, Sherman’s Compromise Lotion, Tariff Tinkering Tincture, Jones’ Repudiation Pills, Weaver’s Old Greenback Cordial, [and] Fake Financial Theories”, there is also a bottle of “Byran’s Free Coinage Panacea” under a chair and a device labeled “Peffer’s Populistic Electrifier” sitting on a small table. In consultation around a table in the background are “Drs. Cleveland, McKinley, [and] Reed”, on the table is a bottle labeled “Currency Reform Medicine”. Wreaths labeled “Merry Christmas” are hanging in the windows.  The artist was Louis Dalrymple (1866-1905).