Lester Breslow

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Lester Breslow (March 17, 1915 in Bismarck, ND, United States – April 9, 2012 in Los Angeles)[1][2][3][4][5] was an American physician who promoted public health. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, which is also where he received his MD and MPH.[6] Breslow served in the United States Army during World War II, and when he returned took a position with the California State Department of Public Health.[6]

While in medical school, he was studying to be a psychiatrist and, as a junior, he worked for a summer in the Fergus Falls Minnesota State Hospital for the Insane.[6] His experience there left him discouraged once he realized that in that time, there was not much they could do for those patients except keep them out of harm's way.[6] When he returned to medical school for his senior year, he told a friend of his, also a faculty member, about his feelings and was introduced to a new professor of public health, Gaylord Anderson.[6] Anderson was the one that got Breslow set on a career in epidemiology.[6] Breslow was considered an exemplary doctor as well as a genuinely good person.[7] In an obituary written by one of his former protégées it says, "I was one of Lester's preventative medicine residents 15 years ago…Having had an opportunity to observe him engage with 'paupers' and 'kings,' I can attest to his treatment of all with respect and appreciation for their humanity, abilities, and contributions. I can also attest to his refusal to accept anything less than the best, from others (like me!) and particularly, from himself."[7]


Breslow's work, which lasted for more than half of a century, made a very large impact on the world of public health.[8] He is credited with pioneering chronic disease prevention and health behavior intervention.[7] One of his most famous works is with the Human Population Laboratory, where he looked at the correlation between lifestyle issues like exercise, diet, sleep, smoking, and alcohol with mortality.[7] He believed that health should be regarded as a resource for everyday life, as opposed to just a way to prevent disease.[9][10]

Notable Positions Held[edit]

  • California State Department Director of Public Health[6][7]
  • Director of Presidents Commission on the Health Needs of the Nation[7]
  • President of American Public Health Association[7]
  • President of Association of Schools of Public Health[7]
  • Dean of UCLA's School of Public Health[7]
  • President of International Epidemiology Association (1964-1968)[11]
  • Breslow was an honorary officer of NARAL Pro-Choice America. In 1977 he was awarded a Sedgwick Memorial Medal. He had been called "Mr. Public Health".[12]


  • Encyclopedia of Public Health
  • Breslow, L.; Enstrom, J. E. (1980). "Persistence of health habits and their relationship to mortality". Preventive Medicine. 9 (4): 469–483. doi:10.1016/0091-7435(80)90042-0. PMID 7403016.


  1. ^ Richmond, C. (2012). "Lester Breslow". The Lancet. 380 (9838): 212. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61206-9. S2CID 45278845.
  2. ^ Martin, Douglas (14 April 2012). "Lester Breslow, Who Tied Good Habits to Longevity, Dies at 97 - NYTimes.com". The New York Times. New York. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  3. ^ Cloke, Susan (29 April 2012). "Hometown Hero: Dr. Lester Breslow (1915-2012) | Santa Monica Mirror". smmirror.com. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  4. ^ Maugh II, Thomas H. (12 April 2012). "Dr. Lester Breslow dies at 97; 'Mr. Public Health' - Los Angeles Times". articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  5. ^ Anderson, Sarah (11 April 2012). "Obituary: Dr. Lester Breslow, 97, former UCLA dean, public health visionary / UCLA Newsroom". newsroom.ucla.edu. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Baquet, Claudia; Lester Breslow (May 2005). "A Conversation with Lester Breslow". Epidemiology. 16 (3): 410–413. doi:10.1097/01.ede.0000158800.01170.36. PMID 15824560.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Yancey, Antronette (August 2012). "Obituary: Lester Breslow". American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 43 (2): 230. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.05.006.
  8. ^ Stallworth, JoAna; Jeffery Lennon (November 2003). "An Interview with Dr. Lester Breslow". American Journal of Public Health. 93 (11): 1803–1805. doi:10.2105/ajph.93.11.1803. PMC 1448054. PMID 14600044.
  9. ^ Breslow, Lester (1999). "From Disease Prevention to Health Promotion". The Journal of the American Medical Association. 281 (11): 1030–3. doi:10.1001/jama.281.11.1030. PMID 10086439.
  10. ^ Fielding, Jonathan; Steven Deutsch; Lester Breslow (2010). "A Framework for Public Health in the United States". Public Health Reviews. 32 (1): 174–189. doi:10.1007/BF03391597. S2CID 74015352.
  11. ^ Pemberton, John (April 2005). "Commentary: On the article by Lester Breslow on the origins and development of the IEA". International Journal of Epidemiology. 34 (4): 729–731. doi:10.1093/ije/dyi076. PMID 15833791.
  12. ^ Marquis, Julie (13 October 1997). "Mr. Public Health - Los Angeles Times". articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 21 May 2013.