origins of public health

Topics: Health, Poor Law, Health care Pages: 5 (1965 words) Published: February 12, 2014
Unit 12 – P2

This assignment is going to describe the origins of public health in the UK from the 19th century to the present. It will include the historical perspectives of the public health systems ranging from the work of John Snow all the way to the present which is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). John Snow (1813-1858)

Dr John Snow was a famous physician, widely recognised as a leading pioneer in the development of anaesthesia in Britain, as well as one of the founding fathers of epidemiology. Snow’s first piece of scientific work was on the use of Arsenic in the preservation of bodies which had to be abandoned because of the toxic effects on the medical students. From his studies of Toxicology, John developed an interest in anaesthesia and cholera and first encountered a cholera epidemic in Newcastle 1831-32 when he was sent there by the surgeon to whom he was an apprentice at the time. John Snow’s first paper titled Asphyxia and the resuscitation of new-born children was presented in 1841. Five years later, he heard about the use of anaesthesia in the USA however it was not well received in the UK at first because of the way mode of administration but Snow had spotted how they could improve that. (

Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890)
Edwin Chadwick was born in Manchester in 1800. Whilst studying to become a lawyer in London he became particularly interested in political and social reform.He soon became one of the most important public health activists in the 1800s. He believed in using science as a means for social improvement and in 1832 he was asked to serve on a royal commission to investigate the effectiveness of the Poor Laws (something that will be further explained after this). His work contributed to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. When he started investigating living conditions of the poor, Chadwick became intrigued by the problem of sanitation. He became convinced that carrying out active measures like cleaning, drainage and ventilation would make people healthier and therefore become less dependent on welfare. After the first appearance of cholera in 1831, there were following epidemics of influenza and typhoid in 1837 and 1838 which caused the government to ask Chadwick to carry out a new enquiry into sanitation. Chadwick then used quantitative methods to show that there was indeed a direct link between poor living conditions and disease and life expectancy. This is what inspired the Public Health Act of 1848 (which will also be explained later on in the assignment). ( The Poor Law Act

Before the poor law act was established, the cost of looking after the poor was increasing every year. The cost was paid for the middle and upper classes in each town through their taxes. After years of complaining the Poor Law Act was introduced meaning to reduce the cost of looking after the poor and impose a system which would be the same all over the country. The poor law act ensured that the poor were housed in workhouses, clothed and fed and any children that were in workhouses would receive some schooling. In return for this care the paupers would have to work for several hours a day. Believing this, many people welcomed the act with open arms; however, not everyone shared the same joy of welcoming this act. People like Richard Oastler spoke out against the act calling the workhouses ‘Prisons for the Poor’. Conditions within the ‘workhouses’ were deliberately harsh to ensure that only those who were desperate enough would ask for help. Families were split and housed in different parts of the workhouse. They were forced to wear uniforms and the diet was monotonous. A little time after the new law was introduced; various numbers of scandals had hit the headlines, the most famous one being Andover Workhouse. It was reported that within this specific workhouse,...
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