The second Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Marion B. Folsom, was sworn in August 1, 1955. A native of Georgia, he had served as Under Secretary of the Treasury from 1953-55 and previously as a top executive with Eastman Kodak Co, in Rochester, New York.
The White House Conference on Education was held in the fall of 1955, resulting in 72 specific recommendations for improvement of elementary and secondary schools. The Department responded with a number of proposals over the next 18 months designed to greatly expand Federal assistance to education.
Ten years of operating the Hill-Burton hospital construction program was marked in 1956. By June 30, more than 2,000 federally aided hospitals and health centers were in operation, including 550 new general hospitals. More than 136,000 beds and 750 health units for outpatient care had been added to the Nation's health system.
The poliomyelitis vaccine program was accelerated to the point where, by July 1, 1956, protection had been provided to virtually all children under 20 and all expectant mothers.
In June 1956, the President signed a bill authorizing the Public Health Service to conduct a continuing national health survey, the first in 20 years. Legislation also was enacted to combat the nursing shortage and improve nursing service.
By June 30, 1956, more than 5 million Americans were receiving public assistance and 8.4 million were receiving social security benefits--three fourths of the retired age population.
The Armed Forces Medical Library was transferred August 3, 1956, to the Public Health Service and was renamed the National Library of Medicine.
During fiscal year 1956, 66,273 handicapped persons were returned to useful lives, a new record under the 35-year-old program. The Department also reported that from 1946 to 1956 maternal death rates fell 76 percent and infant death rates dropped 23 percent.
By the fall of 1956, 40 million children were overcrowding the Nation's schools. About 2 1/4 million were enrolled in excess of normal capacity and 80,000 new classrooms were needed to meet the overflow. In fiscal year 1956, the Administration had requested an unprecedented 100 percent increase in funds for the Office of Education to help meet this need-from $3 1/4 million to $6 million. Congress approved more than $5 1/4 million for fiscal year 1957, a 65-percent increase.
Significant advances were made by researchers at the National Institutes of Health in fiscal year 1957, especially in the treatment of cancer with drugs and the treatment of burns with gamma globulin. In the previous ten years, NIH research programs had increased from $8 million to $183 million and NIH support of promising scientists increased from $2 million in 1953 to $5 million in 1957.
The Nation was free from smallpox for the fourth straight year in 1957, which was attributable to the work of PHS's Quarantine Service. Rapid and thorough work by PHS in 1957 helped the Nation survive the most widespread influenza epidemic in 40 years. More than 80 million doses of influenza vaccine were produced and distributed by the end of the year. At its peak in mid-October, an estimated 12 million people were in bed with the virus.
In 1957, the Social Security Administration reported that social security beneficiaries had passed the 10 million mark. Monthly benefits in June 1957, totaled $554.6 million.
In 1958, PHS intensified research in air and water pollution and created a Division of Radiological Health to deal with problems of radiation exposure.
Aided by an increase in staff from 806 to 1,215, the Food and Drug Administration increased its inspection, evaluation and research activities considerably in 1958. The Agency estimated that during the year $56.4 billion worth of food products, $3.9 billion worth of drugs and medical devices, and $1.4 billion in cosmetics moved through some 83,692 factories and warehouses, subject to Federal inspection.
The 85th Congress passed the food additives amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Effective March 5, 1959, it required the manufacturer or promoter of a new food additive to submit to FDA evidence that its safety has been tested and established before marketing.