87 YEARS AGO IN IDPH HISTORY
The first Better Baby Conference, held during the 1915 Illinois State Fair, was designed to draw attention to sanitary and hygienic matters. During the conference, Department staff helped to examine 250 children.
The baby conference brought the idea of preventive medicine directly to thousands of mothers and other members of the public, who could look through spacious glassed openings at physicians and nurses as they examined babies.
In 1921, the Better Baby Conference moved beyond the state fair venue and into areas of the state where there was a demand for the prevention and care messages it promoted. Physicians and nurses conducted 13 conferences in as many counties that year.
Over the next few years, the demand for local conferences grew. In 1922, a Department physician organized and directed 65 better baby conferences, reaching 7,647 children. During the following year, 79 conferences were held and 7,851 children were examined.
In order to determine the relative health of rural and urban children, the Department analyzed records from the1923 baby conferences. The results were revealing: A group of 3,193 rural preschool-age children had a total of 6,800 significant physical defects, while a group of 2,130 city children of similar age had a total of only 3,488 defects. The findings indicated that children in rural areas had a greater need for public health services than their urban counterparts did.
In the late 1930s, as the educational aspects of the conferences began to wane, they deteriorated into mere baby shows. The events were gradually abandoned in favor of more effective methods of demonstrating child health standards and child care.
... Years Ago in Public Health
A Timeline of the Illinois Department of Public Health