Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk discussed changes in the field of public health since the School’s founding a century ago in a December 3, 2013 article for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s NewPublicHealth blog. The article is one of several on the blog focusing on HSPH’s Centennial.
“The 100 years that have passed since the School of Public Health was founded are not just any 100 years—they’re the 100 years with the most intense transformations in health in human history,” Frenk told NewPublicHealth. “We have seen a more than doubling of life expectancy since the school was founded. Around 1900, the global average for life expectancy was 30 years. At the end of the century, the global average was about 65 years. It more than doubled in the 20th century, and that increase has continued with some setbacks, most notably the AIDS epidemic in [Sub-]Saharan Africa. And we have had a qualitative shift not just in the level of mortality, but in the causes of death. So we went from a preponderance of acute infections to now a predominance of mostly chronic non-communicable diseases, and that’s an incredible transition.”