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The Story of Marine Health

The Marine Hospitals Fund is created.

Date: 1798

The Story of Marine Health

The U.S. federal government creates the Marine Hospitals Fund through The Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen to provide hospital care for merchant seamen, and to address health issues relating to maritime trade, such as yellow fever, scurvy, and health threats brought to the U.S. from other countries on ships.

The fund focuses on health initiatives that protect the "commerce and health of America," including quarantine. This is the first federal health law in the U.S. It creates a tax where money is taken out of seamen's paychecks to support hospital operations. The system is based on the British model that created medical care for mariners in gratitude for their destruction of the Spanish Armada. It is also created to maintain the labor force for this economically essential industry, as water travel is the primary means of transport for trade in this era.

The Marine Hospital Service that is established out of the fund will eventually become the foundation for the Public Health Service Commission Corps–a militarized arm of public health.