550.609.01 | AY 2013-2014 - 1st Term | 3 Credit(s)
MW 10:30:00 AM
  • Contact Information
    Graham Mooney
  • Welcome Message

    Hello and welcome to this course on the history of public health in Baltimore City.

    I had a number aims in mind when I started teaching this class a few years ago. One was straightforward. I wanted to fill a gap and a need: there were very few courses being taught about Baltimore across the University, never mind in the School of Public Health. Yet, like me, many students were intensely curious about the city they were living in and wanted to know more about it. Some students I came across were studying public health topics about Baltimore, but were starved of information about the city to give their work context and meaning. Thankfully, I think this has changed, partly because the University has had to become more conscious of its role in the city, and partly because the profile of the social ills in the city was heightened by books such as The Corner and TV programs such as The Wire.

    Possibly you will find in this course a way of coming to terms with the deep-seated historical antecedents of some of Baltimore's most pressing public health problems. But we can and should think about Baltimore as part of a much bigger picture. Another aim, then, is to use the history of public heath to provide a critique not only of how Baltimore has become the city it is today, but how that city reflects changes in American society, politics and culture more generally. What does 'public health' mean in an age of neoliberalism and austerity, at a time when what is and is not 'public' is under constant debate?

    This is emphatically not a course about Johns Hopkins University. If you have come here to learn about how wonderful we all have been, then I'm afraid you should go someplace else! But it is unavoidable that some of things that happened at Hopkins, or happened in the city because of Hopkins, feature in this course from time to time. Some of these were good, some of them not so. But one of the things the Universty has to deal with is its complicated relationship with the people and government of Baltimore. It turns out that the history of public health is an enlightening way of exploring and understanding this relationship.

    On that note, if nothing else the history of public health demonstrates that we are following in the footsteps of many researchers here at Hopkins and other places of higher education in the city that have used Baltimore as a kind of 'laboratory'. In some ways, this course is no different. It uses the historically amazing, the mundane and the troubling in equal measure to shine a light on the city. In this 'laboratory', we use history as an analytic tool and as a method of thinking; not just as a way to compile a roster of interesting events.

    I hope you enjoy the class and I look forward to learning more about the history of Baltimore with you.


  • Intended Audience

    MPH and PhD students, particularly those researching or intending to do research on Baltimore

    Undergraduate public health majors

  • Prerequisites

    Additional Faculty Notes:

    No prerequisites

  • Modes of Communication (email, BBS, etc)

    Personal emails to Prof Mooney:

    Please note that I rarely accesses my JHSPH email account. Although JHSPH emails will be forwarded on, you should send emails to to ensure a prompt response.

    I strive to answer all emails within 24 hours (weekends excepted).


    Class BBS:

    If you have any content/topic related questions, please post them in the BBS to share with the rest of the class. I aim to participate in each new discussion thread within 24 hours (weekends excepted), but classmates can and should respond to questions whenever they want. 

  • Course topics
    • Baltimore history and geography
    • Disease, public heath and medical care, 1750 to the present
    • Infectious disease: yellow fever and smallpox
    • Tuberculosis
    • Sewers, pollution and environmental justice
    • Primary care
    • Lead paint poisoning
    • Rodent control
    • Pregnancy and childbirth
    • STDs
    • Substance abuse
  • Course Learning Objectives

    Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

    • Describe and explain a variety of key public health issues and events in Baltimore between 1750-2000
    • Discuss and appreciate the historical origins of some of Baltimore’s current public health challenges
    • Assess the impact of policy interventions on the health of Baltimore’s population
    • Critically discuss the changing relationship between local, state and federal agencies (governmental and non-governmental) in the formation, implementation and evaluation of public health interventions in Baltimore
    • Locate, analyze and interpret qualitative and quantitative primary source materials (such as published and unpublished government documents, newspaper reports, maps and images)
  • Course Description

    This course critically explores a range of important topics in the history of public health in Baltimore from the mid-18th century to the present, including: migration and health; sewers and water supply; infectious disease control (for example, tuberculosis and STDs); housing and lead poisoning; rodent control. Recurrent themes are racial inequality, the geography of poverty and the multiple challenges of urban government. Focuses on the city of Baltimore, but the issues discussed are placed in their wider national and international contexts and take into account broad historical developments in the theory and practice of public health.

  • Course Format

    The course involves a mixture of lectures, discussion sessions and student presentations. The set reading for the discussion sessions are mandatory.

  • Course Schedule

    Please see the course Session for a full list of dates and items for this course.

  • Required Text(s)

    The recommended purchases for this class are:

    Beilenson, Peter L. and McGuire, Patrick A. 2012. Tapping into The Wire: the real urban crisis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Antero Pietila. 2010. Not in my neighborhood: how bigotry shaped a great American city. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.

    Samuel Roberts. 2009. Infectious fear: politics, disease, and the health effects of segregation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.


  • Files from the Online Library
  • Methods of Assessment

    Your evaluation in this course will be based on the submission of one individual written assignment, the completion of a group wiki, and participation in four discussion classes.

    Mid-term individual written assignment (30% of the final grade)

    The mid-term individual written assignment should be submitted on this website via the Course Drop Box no later than  Wednesday 02 October 2013, 11.59pm. If you encounter problems submitting your assignment, email it directly to Prof Mooney, The assignment will be graded by Prof Mooney and represents 30% of your final grade for this course.

    Final group Wiki assignment (50% of the final grade)

    The wiki page will be completed as part of a small group. The wiki and its associated presentation on the last day of class will be graded by Prof Mooney (up to 40% of your total grade for this course) and by peer assessment from the other members of your small group (up to 10% of your final grade for this course). The wiki is not submitted to the Drop Box, but it must be marked 'Completed' no later than Weds 23 October, 2013, 11.59pm.


    Class discussions (20% of the final grade)

    There are four seminar-style discussion classes. Attendance is mandatoryAt least 24 hours prior to each of the four seminar classes, you must submit three discussion questions to the CoursePlus website BBS, based upon the set readings ('Notes for Success' gives examples of how to frame an effective discussion question). Attendance, BBS questions and participation in the discussions is graded by Prof Mooney and represents 20% of the final grade for this course (5% per discussion class).


    There will be an opportunity to discuss these assignments in class on Monday 16 September 2013.

  • Assignment Descriptions and Guidelines


    Assignment 1: Mid-term individual written paper (30% of final grade).


    Public health is concerned with the organized efforts of society to prevent illness and promote well-being. Using the reports of Carroll Fox (1914) and Joseph Mountin (1932) on public health administration in Baltimore, critically discuss the suitability of this ‘organization’ of public health in the city in the early twentieth century.

    NB: Both reports will be available in the online library.

    Word count:

    1,000-1,200 words, excluding references and bibliography.

    Bibliography and references:

    Provide a full bibliography. I don't mind which referencing system you use, but please be consistent. Wikipedia is NOT a reliable source of information and should not be used.

    Due date:

    Wednesday 02 October 2013, 11.59pm. Five percentage points will be deducted for every day that your assignment is late. The next ‘day’ begins at 12:00am, Thursday 03 October 2013 (e.g. if you achieved a grade of 20% out of the 30% and submitted your assignment at 12:14am, Thursday 04 October 2013, the percentage will be reduced to 25% and so on).


    Assignment 2: group wiki page (50% of final grade)

    The purpose of this group assignment is to familiarise yourself with the use and interpretation of primary and secondary sources on public health in Baltimore. Your aim in producing this wiki is to provide a topic-related information portal for an online browser who wants to know more about the history of public health in the city.

    Using a wiki

    A wiki is a website that uses wiki software to easily create and edit interlinked Web pages, using a simplified mark-up language or a text editor. We will be using the Wiki facility in CoursePlus.

    You will be divided into small groups as soon as possible. Each group will produce a wiki over the rest of the term.

    Wiki content: the history of public health in Baltimore

    Each workgroup will be assigned a 'Keeping Well' radio drama script that was broadcast in Baltimore in the 1940s. This drama will provide the topic of your wiki. Examples might include “The Endless Chain” (syphilis), “First Line of Defense” (getting ready for school and vaccination), “The Thin Girl” (diet and nutrition) or “An Apple a Day” (prevention of constipation!).

    The 'Keeping Well' drama is only the starting point for your wiki. You should use it to define a specific topic and period. For example, a drama on syphilis might be used to construct a wiki about the introduction of venereal disease Rapid Treatment Centers in the city in the 1940s; or unregulated treatment by unlicensed practitioners; or syphilis testing, confidentiality and contact tracing etc. You are not confined to the period covered by the drama.

    Consult with Prof Mooney as early as possible about the scope of your topic.

    Wiki criteria:

    • All information contained in the wiki should be based on reliable primary and secondary sources. Wikipedia is NOT a reliable source.
    • All sources (images, data, text) should be linked or referenced on the wiki (with a bibliography if necessary).
    • Use images. These images can be photographs, drawings, tables or charts.
    • Contain no more than 2,000 words of well-edited, clear prose.
    • Follow all university regulations regarding plagiarism and academic standards.

    Examples of websites on the history of medicine/public health that might provide ideas are posted in the web links page of CoursePlus. Past examples of student wikis will also be available in the online library.

    Assessment of the wiki:

    The wiki makes up 50 per cent of your final grade, divided into two components: 40 per cent graded by Prof Mooney; 10 per cent by peer assessment. Details on peer assessment will be handed out in class towards the end of term.

    Due date:

    The wiki must be completed and marked by your group as ‘Finished’ no later than 11:59pm, Friday 25 October 2014. Five percentage points will be deducted for every day that your assignment is late. The next ‘day’ begins at 12:00am, Saturday 26 October 2013 (e.g. if you achieved a grade of 40% out of the 50% and marked it finished at 12:14am, Saturday 26 October 2013, the percentage will be reduced to 35% and so on).


  • Late Submission/Make-up Policy

    Assignment 1: Due on Wednesday 02 October 2013, 11.59pm. Five percentage points will be deducted for every day that your assignment is late. The next ‘day’ begins at 12:00am, Thursday 03 October 2013 (e.g. if you achieved a grade of 20% out of the 30% and submitted your assignment at 12:14am, Thursday 04 October 2013, the percentage will be reduced to 25% and so on). Exceptions only by prior arrangement with Prof Mooney and with sufficient evidence.


    Assignment 2: The wiki must be completed and marked by your group as ‘Finished’ no later than 11:59pm, Friday 25 October 2013. Five percentage points will be deducted for every day that your assignment is late. The next ‘day’ begins at 12:00am, Saturday 26 October 2013 (e.g. if you achieved a grade of 40% out of the 50% and marked it finished at 12:14am, Thursday 24 October 2013, the percentage will be reduced to 35% and so on). Exceptions only by prior arrangement with Prof Mooney and with sufficient evidence.


    Class discussions: Attendance at the four class discussions is mandatory. Exceptions only by prior arrangement with Prof Mooney and with sufficient evidence. Make-up is expected and will be arranged with Prof Mooney on a case-by-case basis.

  • Grading Policy

    Grades in this course are based on the following:

    Assignment 1: Mid-term paper, 30%. Due no later than Weds 02 October 2013, 11.59pm.

    Assignment 2: Completed wiki page and presentation, 50%. Due no later than Friday 25 October, 2013, 11.59pm.

    Discussion classes: Attendance, submission of discussion questions, and participation, 20% (5% per discussion).

  • Grading Scales

    Letter grades are based on the following cut-offs:

    A = 90% or higher
    B = 80-89%
    C = 70-79%
    D = 60-69%
    F = less than 60%

    If you are taking this class as a Pass/Fail option, a grade of C or higher is required for a passing grade.

    You are strongly recommended to consult the JHSPH policy on academic plagiarism, available in the JHSPH Policy and Procedure Manual. is used to detect plagiarism in course assignments.

  • Academic Ethics Code

    Students enrolled in the Bloomberg School of Public Health of The Johns Hopkins University assume an obligation to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the University's mission as an institution of higher education. A student is obligated to refrain from acts which he or she knows, or under the circumstances has reason to know, impair the academic integrity of the University. Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to: cheating; plagiarism; knowingly furnishing false information to any agent of the University for inclusion in the academic record; violation of the rights and welfare of animal or human subjects in research; and misconduct as a member of either School or University committees or recognized groups or organizations.

  • Recommended Text/Materials

    The syllabus gives an extensive bibliography for each class session and most of the journal article references will be available via the online library. You are encouraged to read as many of these additional readings as possible, and the most valuable are marked (*).

    I will be delighted to provide additional suggested readings if you want to pursue a historical topic beyond Baltimore.

  • Attendance Policy

    Attendance is mandatory at the discussion classes, which are indicated on the syllabus.

    If you cannot attend any scheduled class, you should send an email to me at prior to class with an explanation for the request for an excused absence.

  • Notes for Success

    Assignment 1: Mid-term individual written paper

    Credit will be given if you:

    - Contextualize your response by drawing on other relevant primary sources or secondary literature from the course readings and beyond.

    - Move beyond a simple description of what is in the reports (you need to do this up to a point, but believe me, I know what is in the reports!) and attempt to criticize historically their methodological approach, use of evidence, rhetorical strategy, bias, what they don’t say, etc.

    - Try not to judge early 20th century reports using early 21st century criteria. Its just not fair.

    In previous years, many students have performed very well when they have chosen to focus on a specific disease, topic or theme. Examples include: tuberculosis; venereal disease; maternal and child health; public health nurses; race, poverty and social exclusion; quarantine and isolation; clerks and information gathering. You are strongly advised to let Prof Mooney know well in advance if you plan to write about a specific topic so that he can advise you on feasibility and provide additional secondary readings that may not be on the course syllabus.

  • Use of cell phones and laptops during class

    Please turn off all cellphones during class.

    Note-taking on laptops and tablets is permitted, but you are expected to disable your computer's wireless once you have downloaded the lecture slides, unless otherwise requested.

  • Instructor Bio

    Graham Mooney is an assistant professor in the Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also holds an adjunct position in the Department of Epidemiology in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. A geographer by training, he has held academic positions in geography, history and public health. He has also worked as a public health researcher for the British National Health Service. He currently co-edits the journal Social History of Medicine.

  • Instructor Research Interests

    Graham Mooney is interested in the history of public health in Great Britain and North America, historical epidemiology and historical demography. He is currently completing a book manuscript The Debris of Living: Infectious Disease Surveillance in Victorian England. His next book will be Harm City? Urban Public Health in NeoLiberal America

    More details about Graham's publications can be found at

  • Disability Support Services
    If you are a student with a documented disability who requires an academic accommodation, please contact the Office of Student Life Services at 410-955-3034 or via email at