Poor Health: The Public Hospital in the Twentieth Century


ACLS Fellowship Program


“Poor Health” recasts the history of US health care by examining struggles over Chicago’s public hospital, Cook County Hospital (CCH). Most historians suggest visions of health care reform narrowed as the twentieth century progressed. By looking to the only institution where vulnerable, largely Black and Latinx Chicagoans could reliably access medical care, “Poor Health” challenges ideas about how Americans viewed the state. Policymakers and administrators worked to privatize health care starting in the postwar era. But care providers, patients, and advocates rallied to defend CCH and improve the quality of public sector care. Their struggles reveal the enduring importance of the public hospital and sustained advocacy for public sector medicine for all across the twentieth century.