Public Health Events from Ancient Civilizations until 1900

Subject: Public Health
Pages: 1
Words: 362
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

The 1840s saw a shift in attitudes. Parliament invited Edwin Chadwick, a government servant working for the Poor Law Commission, to look into the living circumstances in Britain. His 1842 observations on the sanitary conditions of the laboring population concluded that many cases of poverty and illness were brought on by the appalling living conditions, not by inactivity.

Refuse Removal

Many MPs, known as the “Dirty Party,” fiercely opposed Chadwick’s findings. Chadwick’s ideas required councils to raise rates, which would be unpopular with the wealthier residents. The cholera pandemic in 1848 was what caused the government to shift its position. The Public Health Act of 1848 established the Board of Health, marking the beginning of government regulation of health-related matters. Local governments were given the authority to enhance the cleanliness in their region and designate an officer of health, who had to be a licensed medical professional. Cholera hit once more in 1854.

Health Boards in Wales in 1848-1875

Seventeen municipalities in South Wales filed petitions to establish boards of health between 1848 and 1975, including Cardiff, Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, and Maesteg. Due to their limited authority and reliance on community support and goodwill, local health boards were not always effective. In Merthyr Tydfil, sewage pipelines were buried, a public water supply was built, and a reservoir was finished in 1863. Between 1848 and 1872, Cardiff saw an investment of around £100,000 in water and drainage systems.

1875 Public Health Act

The government came under increasing pressure. Councils were finally compelled to make adjustments by the Public Health Act of 1875. The provision of clean water, appropriate sewage and drainage systems, and the appointment of a Medical Officer of Health in each community were among them.

1870 Education Act

Education became required under the 1870 Education Act. The public could read government brochures about health, diet, and other topics thanks to increased literacy and the teaching of health education in some schools. Hygiene and public health services had advanced significantly by the late 19th century. The number of sick people persisted, nevertheless. Life expectancy was still under 50 in 1900, and 165 out of 1,000 newborns still died before turning one.