Public Health Changes

2355 Words5 Pages

Conleth O’Mahoney

To what extent and why did concerns and interventions on matters of public health change between 1500 and 1930?

It is easy to assume that the story of public health over five centuries was solely a progressive one. This, as with many other historical topics, is hardly ever the case. The concerns that drove public health over this time did not change, but overall emphasis shifted from one area to another. Concerns include religion, economics, political objectives, contemporary and general medical understanding. Interventions rather than being the adaptation of scientific understanding and advances were often fuelled by older but generally accepted concepts. A continuous trend in the history of public health was …show more content…

From the early nineteenth century this was coupled with dirt or filth, to rationalise contamination and disease causation (Jenner, 2004, p.286; Nutton, 1990). Much as the removal of both bad air and filth have gone hand in hand long before the sixteenth century, it was for quite some time an regular preventative endeavour which was often left only to combat rather than prevent disease (Cipolla, 1992, p.10; Jenner, 2004,p.286; Source Book. 1, 6.1). It is important to bear in mind that these were observable factors and it was something that could physically be dealt with, and certainly improved overall health, whether done for the right reasons or not (Brunton, 2004, p 207; Jenner, …show more content…

Much as medical experts were part of emergency health boards, these were often never called so groups comprised of non-medical personnel handled anything below epidemic levels (Renzi, 2004, p.142). This left policy and intervention open to class bias coupled with limited medical knowledge. Waves of plague resulted in a belief that disease came from the morally corrupted poor and thus gave the state and it’s administrators a reason to intervene (Slack, 1985; Source Book 1, 6.2, 6.3; Wear, 2000, p.284). Interventions were harsh, from evictions to the prohibition of local death rites and long held community customs (Source Book 1, 6.2). It was a classist moral and social policing of those least able to meet their standards, as a result much resentment built against authorities and public health officials (Slack, 1985; Source Book 1,

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