Important for improving public health

The improved public health came about as a result of the work of key individuals, as well as smaller factors in the period in question. Louis Pasteur wanted to find a different cause of disease, as the current 1800 theory was that miasma, or bad air caused illness. With the help of Lister’s powerful microscope invention, Pasteur was able to delve deeper into things you couldn’t see with the naked eye; organisms. He made the theory that these germs caused disease, based on his evidence that bacteria caused decay, when he worked for a brewery. Pasteur, however, was able to prove his theory; it was Robert Koch who later proved that. It was due to Pasteur, and his theory that people could now scientifically prove John Snow’s theory.

John Snow was a man who carried out meticulous research on the cholera epidemics in London. He did this by door-to-door research, interview people, carrying out surveys, and looked at birth, marriage and death information records. His biggest breakthrough came when he interviewed an owner of a brewery. The owner said none of his employees had caught cholera. He also mentioned he gave his workers beer to drink. It took time but Snow eventually linked the first cholera outbreak to a single water pump in Broad Street, London. He discovered that there were contaminants polluting the water supply. He unfortunately died before the germ theory.

It is also obvious that Edwin Chadwick was concerned with disease and illness spreading rapidly, and he also tried to do something about it. His report: “Report into the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain” proved that death rate was higher in the city than in the country. It is for that reason he made several recommendations to the public and local councils, on how they could go about improving health.

The first was to have a clean water supply, and sewage channels, to be kept very separate, so as to not contaminate the fresh water. He advised for a medical officer to be appointed, to check health, and also for refuse to be removed from the streets. This was the key factor, dirt. Dirt caused disease, and so if his advice was taken, illness and the spread of disease would have been considerably less. It took time, but eventually this happened due to Robert Koch who proved the link between dirt and disease, using his various methods with his team of trained bacteriologists. This was a big breakthrough, and was a direct result of ongoing wars. France and Germany were in competition with each other. France couldn’t beat Germany in wars, so they tried to in medicine. They still lost the battle.

Attitudes also came into play, for improving public health. Laissez-Faire was getting weaker, so the government started to get more actively involved in town’s business. It enforced education for everyone, and made vaccinations compulsory. Therefore, at school, people could learn about health, and how it could be made worse. They could learn to read, and thus could read medical pamphlets. Naturally, vaccinations helped health for the better, reducing chances of catching a particular disease. The government also extended the electoral vote to gentlemen and those men of a working class. This meant the government had to listen to what people wanted to stay in power.

Thus, hospitals were set up, where people could be isolated (unlike medieval hospitals where the sick were kept out), so the spread of disease would be slow and contained. Subsequent outbreaks of cholera were linked too. Due to the fact that it appeared more than once, it was now a force to be reckoned with, to stop it from occurring again. The last combination of factors were also introduced by the government and local councils. They were the regulatory standards. This meant there had to be standards of food, qualifications, living and working conditions observed and met throughout the era.

Any “dirty” food couldn’t be sold, housing had to be more spacious than it already was, refuse from the street had to be cleared, and doctors’s qualifications were checked on a regular basis, to make sure they had a clear grasp on the subject matter. All these regulations were set up as a result of the weakening of the laissez-faire, so the government were improving health for it’s country. The spread of diseases can now be separated into two groups; which all link together. The work of individuals, and the work of the government (due to the weakening of the laissez-faire).

In conclusion, I think and believe the most important reason was included in the work of individuals in the time, namely being Louis Pasteur. It was due to his germ theory, linking dirt and disease that Koch was able to prove the link, and therefore subsequent government action to be taken. Without Pasteur’s work, it is unknown if health would have taken the same steps today, it might’ve been some years more before we eventually linked dirt and disease.

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