While the Civil war propelled the progress of American medicine much faster than what would have probably transpired without it, our staunch belief in capitalism has prevented us from developing the kind of national healthcare the United Kingdom, France, and Canada have used for decades.
As a result, we have our own unique system that has evolved drastically over the past century into something that is both loved and hated by its citizens.
Whichever end of the spectrum you lean toward, there’s no doubt about it: the history of medicine and organized healthcare in America is a long and winding road. How we've gotten to where we are today is quite a story, so let’s dive in...
The History of Medicine and Organized Healthcare: From the 1700’s to Now
The 1700’s: Colonial Times
Medicine was fairly rudimentary for the first few generations of colonists who landed in the new world, primarily because very few upper-class physicians emigrated to the colonies. Women played a major role in administering care in these early days, most especially when it came to childbirth.
Mortality in those early days was extremely high, most notably for infants and small children. Malaria was particularly brutal, as was diphtheria and yellow fever. Most of the sick were treated with folk remedies, though smallpox inoculation was introduced earn-on (long before it was embraced in Europe.) In these early days, there was virtually no government regulation or attention paid to public health.