The Industrial Revolution and Public Health

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  • The Industrial Revolution and Public Health
    • Public Health
      • Rapid urbanisation meant a decline in living standards,
      • Manchester's population rose from 18,000 in 1750 to 303,000 in 1851.
      • Many people were left with inadequate housing.
      • Disease was very common at this time. Between 1800 and 1856 at least 1/3 of deaths were from tuberculosis.
      • Cholera was very common and there were 4 large cholera epidemics in London in the 19th century, the worst being in 1848.
      • 50% of people who caught cholera died from it.
      • People believed cholera came from 'bad air', The true cause of cholera was not discovered until Louis Pasteur's Germ theory was published in 1864.
    • Edwin Chadwick
      • Edwin Chadwick was appointed assistant commissioner for the Royal Commission Enquiry on Poor Law in 1832.
      • His first major report led to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.
      • Chadwick was concerned by the growing rate of disease and ill health in the cities.
      • In 1842 he published a report called 'The Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population' which highlighted the issues.
      • The 1848 Public Health Act was a result of the frightening cholera epidemic which forced the government to take action.
      • The Public Health Act encouraged councils to improve sewer systems, manage refuse collection, appoint medical officers and to improve access to clean water.
      • The Public Health Act was only a guideline and not strictly enforced. It was abolished 10 years later.
      • People were concerned with how much these public health changes would cost and many disliked Chadwick.
    • John Snow
      • John Snow was a doctor who was extremely concerned with the outbreaks of cholera.
      • He refused to accept the idea that 'bad air' caused cholera and began to explore the idea of it entering the body through the mouth.
      • He published an essay in 1849 titled 'On the Mode of Communicati-on of Cholera' following the 1848 epidemic.
      • In 1854, Snow made a breakthrough and identified a water pump in Soho as a source of an outbreak of cholera.
      • Snow could not prove how cholera was caused until Pasteur's work was published in 1860. However, he had the pump handle removed to stop people using it and the outbreak diminished.
    • Public Health Act 1875
      • Health remained poor amongst the lower working classes. The new Public Health Act addressed this issue.
      • Many of the terms were similar to the 1848 act but this time they were compulsory.
      • Local councils were made to improve water supplies and sewage systems.
      • Food had to be checked to make sure it was suitable for consumption.
      • Shorter working hours were introduced.
      • Fines were put in place for polluting rivers.
      • Slum housing was cleared and living conditions improved.
      • The act marked a turning point in government attitudes towards public health.


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