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Public Health. What is Public Health? The filthy overcrowded conditions in which so many people lived made sure that Cholera spread quickly.

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What is Public Health?
The filthy overcrowded conditions in which so many people lived made sure that Cholera spread quickly.
  • Contact with human excrement and flies which had been in contact with human excrement was inevitable. The worst source of Cholera was dirty water.
  • Cholera attacked with terrible suddeness and victims could die within a few hours, or after a few days of violent pain and diarrhoea.
  • Where it was waterborne whole streets and areas were affected, entire households could die.
  • There was no effective treatment and one in two of those infected died. It was terrifying because they did not understand that it was waterborne, - it just seemed to move and jump from one area to another at random.
Cholera was not the only danger - Typhus was almost as bad.
  • The huge increase in population meant cesspools were constantly overflowing, often because emptying them was very expensive. some were even completely open.
  • In Whitechapel, London, that there were no sewers so was, 'the filthiest place you can imagine'. In Manchester, it was normal to empty raw sewage into the rivers.
  • While the overcrowded poor were in the most danger the middle classes were also in danger, from Cholera and Typhus because it was caught through dirty water.
housing and health
Housing and health

Cholera epidemics:YearDeaths1831 32,0001848 62,0001854 20,0001866 14,000

  • 1842 Edwin Chadwick- “Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain”
  • Argued that government could improve people’s lives by bringing about reform
  • Recommended: “The most important things needed are drains, removing rubbish from streets, and purer water. There should be improved sewers and drains, and a medical officer of health should be put in charge of each district”
public health act 1848
Public Health Act 1848
  • A board to set up local health boards was established
  • A central board was set up to make recommendations to the local boards
  • Act not successful:
    • boards had no real power
    • Too few boards set up
  • 1858 abolished
dr john snow 1854
Dr John Snow, 1854
  • Investigated cholera outbreak in London
  • Linked cholera with contaminated water
cholera in scotland
Cholera in Scotland
  • Dundee, (page 60)
  • Glasgow (page 61 & 62)
public measures
Public measures

The first public health measures were based upon the idea that miasmas (bad smells) caused disease. Although the idea was wrong, the measures against the miasmas involved a greater focus on cleanliness, and this improved public health.

Further measures included:

  • In 1848 the first Public Health Act caused the setting up of a Board of Health, and gave towns the right to appoint a Medical Officer of Health.
  • In 1853 vaccination against smallpox was made compulsory.
  • In 1854 improvements in hospital hygiene were introduced (thanks in large part to Florence Nightingale).
  • In 1875 a Public Health Act enforced laws about slum clearance, provision of sewers and clean water, and the removal of nuisances.

The benefits of these measures soon became clear, and by the late 19th century local councils were competing with each other to provide the best public health.

public health act 1875
Public Health Act 1875
  • Local authorities had to appoint a Medical Officer
  • Authorities had to:
    • Cover & maintain sewers properly
    • Provide clean water
    • Pave and clean the streets
  • Local officers were appointed to check up on slaughterhouses and take responsibility to make sure that contaminated food was properly destroyed.
other factors which improved health
Other factors which improved health
  • Better diet – due to better transport, fresh food reached the cities
  • Cheap new materials – soap and disinfectant reduced infections
  • Cheap cotton clothes – these were easy to clean and launder.
  • Better medicines and hospitals
individual measures
Individual measures
  • When the Boer War revealed that half the population were unfit for military service, the government accepted that it had to pass laws to improve the situation of the individual poor:
  • In 1906 local councils were told to provide free school meals for poor children.
  • In 1907 school medical examinations were ordered for all children (among these examinations were those of the 'nitty nurse').
  • In 1908 Old-age pensions were introduced.
  • In 1911 National Insurance (free medical treatment for workers who fell ill) was introduced.