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Richard Doty
IU Media Relations

Ruth Engs

Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2003

America today reflects health reform movement of 100 years ago

The clean living movement popular in America today reflects many of the characteristics of the health reform movement 100 years ago, according to an Indiana University Bloomington expert on addictive behaviors.

Ruth Engs, a professor of applied health science in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said the health reform movement in the early 20th century saw campaigns against alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sexuality while crusading for exercise, vegetarian diets, alternative health care and concerns about eugenics and new diseases.

"Compare that to today, with the anti-tobacco movement, federal food labeling concerns, rising health consciousness, the purity movement of no sex before marriage, and the eugenics movement with in vitro fertilization and interest in perfect babies," Engs said.

Engs, who has written six books on various aspects of addictive behavior, said the underage drinking in the speakeasies can be compared with apartment parties at college campuses today where considerable drinking by minors occurs.

The IU professor said her research on addictive behaviors has revealed the cyclical nature of health reform movements, which seem to be happening at this time throughout the United States.

Engs' latest book, published earlier this year, is titled The Progressive Era's Health Reform Movment: A Historical Dictionary. Three years ago she released Clean Living Movements: American Cycles of Health Reform.

For more information, contact Engs at or phone 812-334-2579 or 812-855-9581. Her Web page is