Research

New York State Dept. of Social Welfare Files Relating to Public Health

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
This series contains correspondence, reports, project applications, proposals, news releases, articles, newspaper clippings, speeches, programs, publications, charts, maps, schedules, and other literature about public health in New York State. Most records which document public health, public assistance, and health insurance, were created and maintained by Dr. H. Jackson Davis, who established the first statewide health care program for persons on public relief assistance. Also included are medical plans from New York counties and literature on milk sanitation.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
9 cu. ft.
Inclusive Dates:
circa 1937-1943
Series Number:
A3274

Arrangement

Unarranged.

Administrative History

Dr. H. Jackson Davis was employed by the State of New York from circa 1930-1945, working first for the Department of Health (series A3273) and then for the Department of Social Welfare (series A3274). As Chief Medical Officer with the New York State Department of Social Welfare from 1938-1945, Davis was responsible for establishing the first statewide health care program for persons on relief, since by June 1937, the Department of Social Welfare had assumed the function of continuing necessary state aid for persons on relief, which was previously handled by the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA) under the general supervision of the Department of Health.

While the medical care program was to be state-aided, it was set up to be run by local welfare districts throughout New York State, with the goal of preserving free choice and local autonomy in the provision and delivery of services. The Department of Social Welfare established a set of minimum requirements for the districts to follow, including the principle of "medical and social coordination": the use of physicians to determine medical needs of any person applying for medical care; the use of social workers to determine the financial eligibility of persons applying for care; and the cooperation of medical and social professionals in providing patient-centered care. While minimum standards were in place, local plans could (and did) differ widely on how they provided health care services. Some adopted fee-for-service plans, while others relied on rotating panel systems of physicians, whereby a pool of salaried doctors agreed to participate for a specific period of time before being replaced by another group of physicians.

Not only did the Department of Social Welfare establish standards for the local health plans, it also mandated the process by which a plan was created, reviewed, and approved. First, the local welfare district would undertake a medical survey, which included an identification of all public and voluntary agencies within its borders. Second, it would establish its fees system and draft a "local manual of medical care," which would be reviewed by advisory committees. Third, it would submit the draft plan to the State Department of Social Welfare for review and approval. Fourth, after receiving approval, the local public welfare commissioner would publish the plan and distribute it, ensuring that copies were filed with the Department of Social Welfare and State Department of Audit and Control, for use in granting appropriate state aid monies. Fifth, it would assign staff members, including the Medical Director, to a central medical unit within the specific local welfare department. The unit staff would typically include a physician, medical social worker, medical worker (either nurse or social worker), pharmacist, clerical workers, and accounting specialists.

Due in large part to the program's success - by May 1943, New York State had thirty state approved local medical care plans in place in areas covering more than 80 percent of the recipients of public assistance in the state - H. Jackson Davis was consulted by Harry Hopkins and other members of the Roosevelt Administration in establishing a federal program based on the New York state model.

During the 1940s, after his service in the Department of Social Welfare, Davis served as the director of the first county health department in New York State, in Cortland County.

Scope and Content Note

This series contains correspondence, reports, project applications and proposals, news releases and articles, newspaper clippings, speeches, programs, publications, charts, maps, schedules, and other literature involving public health in New York State. The bulk of the series includes records created and maintained by Dr. H. Jackson Davis, who was responsible for establishing the first statewide health care program for persons on relief. Much of the correspondence includes Harry Hopkins of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), and is in the form of telegrams, instructions, regulations, requests, and recommendations.

Most of the reports in this series document public health, public assistance, and health insurance. They include the medical plans for the New York counties of Erie, Broome, Yates, Orleans, West Chester, Nassau, and Steuben, as well as plans from other states. A few others originate from the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA) and the WPA. The project applications and proposals mostly concern nursing relief and public assistance. Most of the programs are about public assistance, medical care, and social security. The schedules included in this series mainly involve fees and salaries for doctors and reimbursements. The bulk of the charts and maps represent studies and statistics on narcotics control, disease outbreaks, immunization, doctors, insurance, birth rates, and death rates. The numerous publications are in the form of pamphlets, booklets, and bulletins. Many were produced by New York counties, the New York State WPA, the New York State Department of Health, as well as other states. The news releases and articles come from the Board of Social Welfare, the Federal Security Agency, and the Social Security Board. The speeches are copies of those given by the Social Security Board.

The series also contains plenty of public health literature on milk sanitation, its benefits and preparation, studies on communicable diseases, and information about other states' social welfare programs, problems, disease, and sterilization practices. There are multiple copies of the New York State Medical Manual and of a preliminary report on the New York State Temporary Legislative Committee to Form a Long Range State Health Program.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of the material.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series A3275 Working and report files relating to Temporary Legislative Commission to Formulate a Long Range State Health Program, contains additional records on health care planning during this period

Series A3263 Manual of procedure for local relief administrations

and series A3273 Subject and correspondence files of Dr. H. Jackson Davis, contain additional records relating to public relief during this period. SC23196, Harold Jackson Davis Papers, contains related records held by the New York State Library Manuscripts and Special Collections Unit.

Other finding aids

Folder list.

Related Publications

H. Jackson Davis, "Public Medical Care: Some Practical Considerations," 1943, available at the New York State Library.

Other Descriptive Data

H. Jackson Davis, "Public Medical Care: Some Practical Considerations," 1943, available at the New York State Library.

Acquistion Information

This series was transferred to the New York State Archives by H. Jackson Davis, Jr., in 1985.

Access Terms

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