- Created by: Claire Louise Harrington-Capp
- Created on: 08-06-10 18:44
Medicine and Public Health Through Time
Public Health: The science and practice of community hygiene; includes preventive medicine, health education, sanitation and environmental safety.
So in simple terms, public health is about keeping as larger proportion of the population as possible fit and healthy. There have been many different approaches to Public Health throughout time, all with varying success rates.
In Prehistoric Times, people lived a nomadic lifestyle, this means that they used to move around from place to place with great regularity - they had no fixed home. The result of this, was that public health wasn't a big problem at all, they left all their dirt behind when they moved on.
In Prehistoric times, they had made no link between dirt and disease, so they fact they left their dirt behind was more of coincidence than a conscious decision. They didn't know that their lifestyle was keeping them healthy, that's just how they chose to live.
In Egyptian times, there was some form of fixed settlement, ie. they had a fixed home. However, they still didn't understand the link between dirt and disease, so there were no public health measures as we would know them today.
There is evidence to suggest that Egyptians used baths and toilets and slept under mosquito nets, they took great care over their personal hygiene and appearance, even wearing eye make-up. However, this wasn't to prevent disease, it was for social reasons, remember it this way, if you want to be popular today, you can't wander round smelling of BO, things were no different back then.
Egyptian priests kept themselves especially clean, even shaving their heads, to prevent things such as head-lice. However, once again, this had nothing to do with preventing disease, it was part of their belief system. They believed that it was respectful to the Gods to remain clean.
So, just like in prehistoric times, any kind of personal hygiene and health that the Egyptians had, was a mere coincidence - not related to preventing disease. And they had no form of organised public health, such as the one provided by the government today.
Once again, the Greeks did not have any extended, organised public health provisions, there were no sewers, and no running water.
However, some Greeks did follow a programme for health, based on Hippocrates theories of the four humours, it was basically a health and fitness regime, probably things which would be considered common sense these days for example, cleaning ones teeth, eating well, and keeping fit. This wasn't a concept followed by the poor or even middle class Greeks, it was usually followed exclusively by the rich.
The Asclepia, temples to the Greek god of healing, often became somewhat similar to health spas and resorts, with gymnasiums and baths, but people only usually visited when they were feeling unwell. And it certainly wasn't public health organised by the government.
In Roman times, attitude towards public health changed dramatically…