To Your Good Health
The first public health service in the United States was established by Congress on this date in 1798. Originally, the service was intended to oversee the care of "sick and disabled seamen." The act provided that the master of every American ship arriving from a foreign port must pay to the collector of customs the sum of 20 cents a month per seaman. The money would be deducted from the men's pay. In 1902, it became the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service and was authorized to conduct medical inspections of immigrants. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is the largest federal health program in the world.
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