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The Health Revolution: Medical and Socioeconomic Advances


Aiello, Allison E.; Larson, Elaine L.; & Sedlak, Richard (2008). The Health Revolution: Medical and Socioeconomic Advances. American Journal of Infection Control, 36(10 Suppl.), S116-127.


Let's take a look at the health revolution and examine the multiple factors that led to the dramatic improvement in public health. First of all, the health revolution didn't happen all at once, as political revolutions often do. It may have started in the first half of the 19th century, and it's still continuing today. Some of the changes were obvious, like the control of the major epidemics—for example, the disappearance of malaria and smallpox in the state of Illinois, Figures 2-1a and 2-1b. Other changes, like the control of nonepidemic diseases, were more subtle and were recognized only by examining the broader picture, years after the event. It's important to note that the health revolution never really eliminated all disease, all suffering, or all misery. People still get sick and die. They did in the past, do so today, and will do so in the future. What the health revolution really did was: Change the average age of death; Increase life expectancy at every age; Significantly lower the probability of a given person dying in a given year from a given cause.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

American Journal of Infection Control


Aiello, Allison E.
Larson, Elaine L.
Sedlak, Richard