Date: 1915
Owner: National Library of Medicine
Source Type: Images


This illustration of an outhouse was produced by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of its campaign against hookworm. Hookworm (uncinariasis) is a disease caused by a parasite that thrives in unsanitary conditions, especially those that bring people into contact with the fecal matter of infected persons. This outhouse was meant to prevent human waste from entering the soil, a simple and effective means of ensuring hygiene in rural areas that had no plumbing. Like many sanitation efforts of this period (including those of the PASB), the emphasis was on preventing the spread of diseases so as to eventually eliminate them from the Americas.

The Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease was the RF's first effort to promote health and sanitation in Latin America, and it began work in Brazil in 1916. The RF's campaign against hookworm quickly became something of a state health service, serving as a local sanitation institution in areas where no such infrastructure had existed previously. One of the most positive results of the RF's fight against hookworm was that several rural sanitation offices did grow out of the healthcare and prevention framework that the RF's officers had set up. By the late 1920s, however, it became clear that the RF would be unable to eradicate hookworm. The RF thus shifted its sanitation efforts in Latin America from hookworm to yellow fever and malaria, diseases that were more easily spread through shipping and could have a larger impact on the U.S. Even today, almost one fourth of the world's population is infected with the hookworm parasite, a testament to the fact that rural sanitation remains deplorable in much of the world.

Reference: Cueto, Marcos. "Introduction." In Marcos Cueto, ed., Missionaries of Science: The Rockefeller Foundation and Latin America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

CITATION: Hookworm infection: Latrines.  United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Order #: A012964.