|To the People of the United States|
|Directed by||Arthur Lubin|
|Written by||Edmund L. Hartmann|
|Produced by|| United States Public Health Service |
|Narrated by||Jean Hersholt|
|Distributed by||War Activities Committee of the Motion Pictures Industry|
|16 April 1944|
To the People of the United States is a short propaganda film produced by the US Public Health Service in 1943 to warn the American GIs against syphilis. It was directed by Arthur Lubin and produced by Walter Wanger.The film was subject to protests from the Catholic Legion of Decency.
The film opens with the U.S. Army Air Force ground crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress talking to their colleagues about being grounded. It seems the other planes in their unit are off to fight the enemy, but they and their plane lie idle because their pilot is "sick". The pilot, whose face is never shown, talks with a doctor, feeling very embarrassed and guilty about what has happened. The doctor assures him that he will fly again when he gets better. When the pilot interjects that he has heard he wouldn't, the doctor asks "Heard from who? The kid next door or the drug patent salesman? Surely not anyone who knew what he was talking about." The doctor then informs him that if the disease is caught early, and he keeps up a strict treatment he will be able to go about his business normally again.
Once the pilot leaves the doctor addresses the audience "Do you want the facts? Well the first question is the extent of syphilis in America." A visit to the local draft board later reveals that nearly 47 of every thousand men called up have to be dismissed because they have syphilis. He then visits an Army hospital and is informed by the doctor that syphilis is like a "forest fire", no organization or saboteur could do half the damage that venereal disease does to the army.
The doctor then goes into the social stigma associated with syphilis, and the fact that so many people will not get a blood test to check for syphilis. He notes that, in his native Scandinavia, people were much more open about it, and it was a normal sight for people to get a blood test for syphilis. He shows a diagram of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, which he says has a population comparable to the State of New York, and how fewer Scandinavians have VD than New Yorkers. The film ends with a plea for everyone to get a blood test.
The film was made at the request of the Public Health Service and the California State Department of Public Health, using public funds.The director and all the actors volunteered their time for the film and it was shot in November 1943. The intent was for the film to be distributed free by the Public Health Service to the armed services, schools, civic organisations and industrial groups. The film was made with the co operation of the office of the Surgeon General and the script was approved by the army and the Office of War Information.
Diabolique magazine says the film "is the sort of doco that is easy to laugh at (“syphilis – say it!”) but actually has a fine message: don't be ashamed if you're infected, look to science rather than urban legend, get tested and treated, follow the example of Denmark when it comes to sex education. This is all sensible stuff, and accordingly offended the Catholic Legion of Decency."
The Catholic Legion of Decency protested the finished film, saying it failed "to stress that promiscuity is the principal cause of venereal disease." The Legion said the film would "pave the way for a flood of pictures by producers who do not hesitate to avail themselves of every opportunity for lurid and pornographic material for financial gain."
Producer Wanger argued that the film did not violate the Production Code section on sex and hygenie as the Code did not apply to government films. He said the Code did apply to commercial pictures and would ensure any commercial film did not promote promiscuity. However the protests worked and on March 30, 1944 the Public Health Service withdrew its sponsorship of the film.
On April 16, the California Department of Health made the film available for public showing.
Catholics continued to protest the movie.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The signs and symptoms of syphilis vary depending in which of the four stages it presents. The primary stage classically presents with a single chancre though there may be multiple sores. In secondary syphilis, a diffuse rash occurs, which frequently involves the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. There may also be sores in the mouth or vagina. In latent syphilis, which can last for years, there are few or no symptoms. In tertiary syphilis, there are gummas, neurological problems, or heart symptoms. Syphilis has been known as "the great imitator" as it may cause symptoms similar to many other diseases.
John Hunter was a British surgeon, one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day. He was an early advocate of careful observation and scientific method in medicine. He was a teacher of, and collaborator with, Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine. He is alleged to have paid for the stolen body of Charles Byrne, and proceeded to study and exhibit it against the deceased's explicit wishes. His wife, Anne Hunter, was a poet, some of whose poems were set to music by Joseph Haydn.
The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male was a study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a group of nearly 400 African Americans with syphilis. The purpose of the study was to observe the effects of the disease when untreated, though by the end of the study medical advancements meant it was entirely treatable. The men were not informed of the nature of the experiment, and more than 100 died as a result.
The social hygiene movement was an attempt by Progressive-era reformers to control venereal disease, regulate prostitution and vice, and disseminate sexual education through the use of scientific research methods and modern media techniques. Social hygiene as a profession grew alongside social work and other public health movements of the era. Social hygienists emphasized sexual continence and strict self-discipline as a solution to societal ills, tracing prostitution, drug use and illegitimacy to rapid urbanization. The movement remained alive throughout much of the 20th century and found its way into American schools, where it was transmitted in the form of classroom films about menstruation, sexually transmitted disease, drug abuse and acceptable sexual behavior in addition to an array of pamphlets, posters, textbooks and films.
The National Legion of Decency, also known as the Catholic Legion of Decency, was a Catholic group founded in 1934 by Archbishop of Cincinnati, John T. McNicholas, as an organization dedicated to identifying for Catholic audiences, objectionable content in motion pictures. Members were asked to pledge to patronize only those motion pictures which did not "offend decency and Christian morality". The concept soon gained support from other churches.
Thomas Parran was an American physician and Public Health Service officer. He was appointed the sixth Surgeon General of the United States from 1936 to 1948, and oversaw the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiment and Guatemala syphilis experiment.
Philippe Ricord was a French physician.
The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), formally known as the American Social Hygiene Association and the American Social Health Association, is an American nonprofit organization established in 1914, that cites a mission to improve the health of individuals, families, and communities, with an emphasis on sexual health, as well as a focus on preventing sexually transmitted infections and their harmful consequences. ASHA uses tools such as education, communication, advocacy and policy analysis activities with the intent to heighten public, patient, provider, policymaker and media awareness of STI prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment strategies.
The Public Health Advisor, or "PHA" is a type of public health worker which was established in 1948 by the United States Public Health Service in the Venereal Disease Control Division. Today they are hired primarily by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and serve in many public health programs. This type of worker is unique in public health, because they begin their service at the entry level of public health doing what is known as "field work" or "contact epidemiology" which refers to the interviewing and locating of people who have been exposed to an infectious disease so as to offer them treatment and to reduce the epidemic. Following their initial work experiences, PHAs are exposed to a variety of public health programs across the United States, learning to function at all levels of the public health system. During their time of service, PHAs are called upon to respond to public health or humanitarian crisis. This article will briefly describe the history of the Public Health Advisor and will mention a few notable contributions made over the course of their history with the Public Health Service and later with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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John Charles Cutler was a senior surgeon, and the acting chief of the venereal disease program in the United States Public Health Service. After his death, his involvement in several controversial and unethical medical studies of syphilis was revealed, including the Guatemala and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
Warren Fales Draper was Assistant Surgeon General and later Deputy Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1910, Draper entered the Public Health Service, completing a two-year tour on the west coast followed by assignments near Washington D.C. During World War I he was commissioned by the U. S. Army as a sanitation officer, working at Camp Lee and Newport News, both in Virginia, and then conducting relief activities during influenza outbreaks in New England and Pennsylvania. Draper returned to the Public Health Service in 1919, and in 1922 was promoted to assistant surgeon general ahead of his peers. When the Virginia State Commissioner of Health died in 1931, the state's governor borrowed Draper to fill the position, which he did for three years. Five years after once again returning to the Public Health Service, in 1939, Draper was appointed as the Deputy Surgeon General, which position he held until his retirement.
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The Black Stork, also known as Are You Fit To Marry?, is a 1917 American motion picture film both written by and starring Harry J. Haiselden, who was the chief surgeon at the German-American Hospital in Chicago. The Black Stork is Haiselden's fictionalized account of his eugenic infanticide of John Bollinger, who was born with severe disabilities. The film depicts Haiselden's fictionalized story of a woman who has a nightmare of a severely disabled child being a menace to society. Once awoken from the nightmare, she visits a doctor and realizes all was fine with her child. However, the purpose of the film was not to have a happy ending and move on. The purpose was to basically warn people, especially teenagers, of the dangers of sexual promiscuity and "race mixing", as these actions were believed to be the cause of disabilities in children.
The outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases in World War II brought interest in sex education to the public and the government. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, military maneuvers increased worldwide and sexual hygiene and conduct became major problems for the troops. Soldiers and sailors on assignment overseas were often lonely, had time to spare, got homesick, or were just looking for female companionship. This resulted in many men having multiple sex partners, and as a result, became a major health concern. During the Great War, venereal diseases (V.D.) had caused the United States Army to lose 18,000 servicemen per day. Although by 1944 this number had been reduced 30-fold, there were still around 606 servicemen incapacitated daily. This drop in numbers was partly because of the Army's effort to raise awareness about the dangers faced by servicemen through poor sexual hygiene, and also because of the important developments in medicine. In late 1943 a case of gonorrhea required a hospital treatment of 30 days, and curing syphilis remained a 6-month ordeal. By mid-1944, the average case of gonorrhea was reduced to 5 days, and in many cases the patient remained on duty while being treated.
John Friend Mahoney was an American physician best known as a pioneer in the treatment of syphilis with penicillin. He won the 1946 Lasker Award.
Dr. John Roderick 'Rod' Heller, was the head in 1943–1948 of what was then called the "Venereal Disease" section of the United States Public Health Service (PHS). He then became the director of the National Cancer Institute, and then president/chief executive officer of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He is best known for having been the assistant in charge of on-site medical operations in the Tuskegee syphilis study, a longitudinal clinical examination by PHS of untreated syphilis in U.S. African-American males. Very serious questions of medical ethics have been raised about this study and those involved in it.
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