Abstract: Is Good Health ''Good Business''? Perspectives from the History of Medicine on the Virtues of Business, Profits, and Public Health

Kevin Moos


This paper analyzes the ''Good Health is Good Business'' narrative over the course of the twentieth century. The long-term history of this narrative framework in diverse historical and global contexts, I will argue, creates a compelling nexus to explore where business, government, virtue, and profit have met in modern society. Looking at the history of malaria from the early twentieth century until 1972 and then the globalization of blood banking and blood products in the 1970s, I will analyze the troubled reciprocity that was perceived to exist between good health and good business in two case studies. The history of malaria and attempts at its eradication brought into the question the relationship between health and the improving productivity of key industries, the role of these enterprises in economic growth, and ultimately the role of health in the modern economy in general. Controversies surrounding blood banking and blood products in the 1970s questioned the role of business in domestic health institutions, who should profit from health services, and the United States as the 'OPEC' of blood products.