Public Health

Figure 1.--This is a drinking fountain at College Street and Spadina Avenue in Toronto, Canada. These fountains were commonplace in Toronto in the late-19th century, with a trough for horses, a common cup for people and even a basin for dogs! The photograph was taken April 26, 1899. Cities by this time has facilities like water systems and drains. They also had transport based on horse power which meant the streets of cities were filled with tins of mauer. Note the common drinking cup at the fountain. Photographer" F.W. Micklethwaite.

The history of public health goes back to ancient times. It bemd a mztter of concern with the development of civilization. As cities developed, the concentration of population led to health problems that were generally avoided by hunter-gatherer peoples. At the time, disease and health were generally seen as the sork of the gods, although sime civilizatins began to lay the basis fir scientific work. The Egyptians learned a great deal, in prt bcause of their interest in embalming. They did not, however, begin to develp science. The Greeks dis and many modern sciences trace their hitory to Greek thinkers. China also discovered a great deal, but also did not lay the fojundation for scientific investigation. Modern public healt based on scientific understanding did not begin in a serious way until the 19th century. It is a this time that modern science began o reach a critical mass and it became possible to understand and treat many diseases. As a result, the impottance of public health and government support for a public health infrastructure began to emerge. The public and government officils began to appreciate the link between the environment, espcially the urban enviroment, and health. Scientists proved the germ theory and ways to protect people from infection. There was at first a laissez faire approach to health issues. Government issued few if any health regulations. And as part of social reforms of the Victorian era. governments began a range of efforts to improve the health of the population. Industrialization had led to increases in urban population and this migration from rural areas to cities steadily increased during the 19th century. Many problems surfaced in Victorian Britain because the Industrial Revolution and the raid groth of cities began there. The British thus faced increasing problems with sanitation and overcrowding that lincreased the opportunity for serious disease outbreaks. At the same time modrn public health policies began to take shape. Britain set up the National Vaccination Board (1837). Social reformer and kawyer Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890) published his landmark work--"Report on the Inquiry into Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Population of Great Britain (1842). Chadwick outlined the major public health challenges facing Britain which launched the reform process. While not a scientist or doctor, the central public health administration he championed promoted the ‘sanitary idea’. The agency assisted local authorities to build drains, sewers, street cleaning and the a range of environmental regulations. These addressed housing, nuisances, and offensive trades.Across the Atlantic, Lemual Shattuck (1793-1859) in Boston released his seminal report on public health (1850). Shattuck outlined the public health needs in the state of Massachusetts which were basically the needs of America writ large. He recommended the establisgment of a state board of health which would be the first in the nation.


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Created: 2:44 AM 11/29/2014
Last updated: 2:44 AM 11/29/2014