We take advantage of unique data on specific activities conducted under the Sheppard-Towner Act from 1924 through 1929 to focus on how public health interventions affected infant mortality. Interventions that provided one-on-one contact and opportunities for follow-up care, such as home visits by nurses and the establishment of health clinics, reduced infant deaths more than did classes and conferences. These interventions were particularly effective for nonwhites, a population with limited access to physicians and medical care. Although limited data on costs prevent us from making systematic cost-benefit calculations, we estimate that one infant death could be avoided for every $1,600 (about $20,400 in 2010 dollars) spent on home nurse visits.

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