Pan American Sanitary Code

Date: 1924
Owner: Pan American Health Organization
Source Type: Images


This comprehensive code for regulating hemispheric sanitation practices was ratified by the twenty-one countries that attended the seventh meeting of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau (PASB) in Cuba, 1924. Note how the very first objective listed on this manifesto is to prevent the international spread of infectious diseases, a goal made necessary by the great increase in international commerce during the early twentieth century. At this time, the PASB was, unofficially, a U.S. led organization, one that the U.S sponsored to ensure that it could continue to exploit the natural resources of Latin America without importing its diseases.

The Code also reserved the PASB's right to employ select personnel in health and sanitation institutions throughout the Americas. This stipulation encouraged the diffusion of a decidedly Anglo-American approach to sanitation. The plus side of this is that health and sanitation did improve in many urban areas of Latin America, especially port cities. The downfall, however, was that certain aspects of public health that were emphasized by Latin Americans, namely infant and maternal care, received less attention when public health was regulated by U.S. physicians.

In general, the PASB (and later the PAHO) succeeded in implementing the objectives of this code. The code, like the practices it encouraged, did much to downplay the idiosyncrasies of regional medicine and homogenized how health was understood in the Americas as a whole.

CITATION: "Pan American Sanitary Code." In Basic Documents of the Pan American Health Organization, Sixteenth edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, 2002, pp. 3-7.