Last Updated 09 Oct 2020

Public Health in UK in 1800-1900’s

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During the 1800’s the overall health of the public was extremely poor, children and babies were dying in their thousands, and adults would work in the most horrific of conditions. Families of 8 or 9 would live in 1 room where they all slept, ate and washed if they had the water to, the sewage was all over the place as there was no proper sewage lines, People had to bath in the same water they urinated in, they also had to drink this dirty water as it was the only water they had access to.

The working conditions were even worse as some people had to work in bare feet when there was sewage covering their toes, there was no health and safety regulation acts so people would have accidents every day and they would breathe in the most dangerous chemicals while working in large factories such as the cotton factory. Children as young as 8 were in work to earn clothes and food for themselves and to have a bed to sleep in at night instead of the waste covered floor. Most families were sent to a work house where they worked 12-14 hour shifts in order to gain clothes, food and a bed to sleep in for the night.

The families would be separated into men, women and children and they would work in different areas of the factory doing different jobs such as splitting ropes or breaking rocks, while living in the workhouse each family that were separated would have no access to their family members and birthdays weren’t even thought about because no births and deaths were recorded so the mothers and fathers would forget when they had their child and the child would be too young to know the date of its birthday.

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Most people would have died in the workhouse because they would be worked hard every day and some people would have accidents with the machinery and as there was no medical services the people would die of loss of blood or their wounds would get infected and they would have died of an infectious disease. As there was no medical service random women who had no training or have no idea about how to deliver babies would help pregnant women give birth to their children and they would use all sorts of random equipment to cut the umbilical cord and some women even used their teeth as there was nothing sharp enough to cut it.

During these times there were loads of diseases that would develop because of the lack of medical service, clean water and access to proper foods. The most common disease was cholera which would kill a house full of people within a couple of days and it would spread to the next family and kill them or make them very ill which would eventually kill them as there was no cure or medicine they could get hold so because of cholera people would die in there thousands as it was a very nasty disease.

A scientist called Edward Chadwick was the first person to make a vaccine against cholera, he did this by injecting babies and children with a small amount of the disease along with some antibodies so the body could produce the right antibodies to fight the disease and leave the child with immunity from cholera. The first act to come to power was the Public Health Act which came out in 1848. This man called John snow was the first person to make the connection between poor living conditions, such as dirty water, and the rise on disease.

After this conclusion vaccinations were first created and used to get rid of smallpox. The next act to come into power was the midwifes act at in 1902 which came with the registration of midwifes act as well, both of these acts together ensured that women were trained in delivering babies and they were put on a register so doctors knew who were midwifes so they could send someone to assist in the birth process.

Due to this a lot of babies were successfully born and they stayed alive for a lot longer as there was proper midwifes to aid the birth and make sure the umbilical cord was cut correctly using the proper equipment. After this was created the Central board of midwifes was made, this ensured that all people that were trained as midwifes due to the midwife act was registered with the central board. In 1904 there was an interdepartmental survey on physical deterioration which was used to find out the health of the population.

Shortly after that the education act came out in 1906 which ensured that children go to school and get an education, it also brought out school meals where each child would get a hot meal and sometimes it will be the only hot meal they get that day. After that another education act came out in 1907 this ensured that schools had medical services which included a nit nurse who would check the children regulary for head lice. The school nurse would also be responsible for checking the children for signs of disease and illness.

During that time the notification of births act came out which meant that each baby had to be registered after birth so the government can keep track of the population and it also was the start of the health visiting service, this was created because the government had no idea how many births and deaths there were so they couldn’t plan medical treatments or build hospitals. So this was created so the government can keep track of ow the population was growing and what percentage of people were dying so they could try and fix the problems people were having. In 1911 the national insurance act came out which gave workers health insurance this would be paid for by the government taking some of their money from their pay cheques. Seven years later the emergency medical services act came in to power in 1918, this meant that there was an emergency service for people who need urgent medical care, this was the start of proper medical care.

This came out because people who were in wold war one needed emergency care after being attacked. They needed emergency care to make sure the soldiers were looked after properly and injuries were checked and properly treated to stop them becoming infected and to stop soldiers dying. After a few years another emergency medical service act came out in 1940, this was introduced due to the war because people were getting injured and needed urgent medical care, so it was introduced to help the soldiers in need.

After that was put into place the nation health service was born. In 1942 the nation health service was introduced to give people free health care and free health services such as dentistry. These services were free to anybody which meant that health problems could be dealt with properly. Doctors surgeries where built in most areas so people had a place to go, hospitals were also built in most busy areas around the country so people had a place to go when they had an emergency or if they needed to see a specialist doctor.

In 1991 the national health service and community care act came out, this meant that there was more free doctors, more free hospitals around the country and there was new self-remedies to treat problems, for example people used salt bags to treat ear ache and brown paper and goose fat to treat chest infections. During the 20th century there were a number of papers/reports that came out which discussed what needed to be done and what is being done to help the country become healthier.

The first report to come out was a report about rationalising, this was important because the country was in World War 2. The report was made to tell people that every day or one day a week they would be able collect certain food items and certain weights or quantities, this then made people healthier because they had what they needed to have a balanced diet and they weren’t allowed any different food which will make them unhealthy, it also allowed each person to have the same foods so they were all able to keep healthy and they were able to control how the nation te, which would make them healthier and stopping some of the health problems they were facing such as malnutrition. After that the Beveridge report came out in 1942 which decided that there should be free health care for everybody. This meant that the working class had to pay taxes for the nation to get the free health care. At first there was free health care, free dental care and free glasses to everyone who needed them but after a while the government decided to put charged on dental care and glasses because they couldn’t afford to pay them.

In 1980 the black report came out which was a paper concentrated on the differences in mortality rates and there was data on morbidity and health in a more positive perspective. In 1998 the Acheson report came out which explained that there were environmental factors that contributed to the health of people, for example the damp living conditions of the lower class can cause their children to develop asthma.

After that in 1999 there was a paper released called Our Healthier Nation, which explained that there was a rise in cancers, aids, disease and mental health problems due to the environment, the paper also had recommendations the government could do to reduce the rise of people who have disease, cancers and mental health problems. In 2004 a paper came out which was called choosing health and making healthier choices which talked about people making healthier choices in food, cutting down on drinking and it also encouraged people to become more independent in being healthier.

There has been a lot of changes in legislation relating to the health of the nation because over the years the health of people has changed and the diseases they are treating now are a lot different to what they are now, for example, back in the 1900’s the government had to deal with the mortality rate of babies and young children, but now the government are working on keeping the elderly and adults healthy and getting rid of cancers and other disorders.

In the 1800’s the health of the nation was pretty poor because the living conditions were bad and there was no medical treatment or help available so many people died due to disease caused by dirty water, damp housing, cramp rooms and sewage waste. There were also a lot of babies dying due to polio and TB, whereas now a days there are vaccinations for them. Over the years health care has developed and the health of the nation has changed.

We now have life support machines, x-ray machines and more advanced technology so we can keep babies alive, get rid of certain disease and we also have the scientific research and technology to create vaccines to make babies and young people immune to the diseases that killed most people in the 18-1900’s. This would mean that people are now healthier compared to the 1800’s.

Over these years the infant mortality rate had dropped but the percentage of the population that smoke and drink are now much higher in most areas, so even though the government have tackled some problems that arose in the 19th century, they still have problems to tackle now which have developed through the second half of the 20th century. Infant death in the 1800’s was caused by diseases such as rubella and tuberculosis, whereas smoking and drinking cause further health problems that the government need to help tackle and reduce the number of cases.

Smoking can cause, lung cancer, mouth cancer and even throat cancer. These problems can now be treated with chemotherapy or radiation to shop them spreading and to fight the cancer. If these issues where to be recognised in the 1800’s then they wouldn’t be able to do much about it and they would have left the patient to die because they had no proper technology to treat them and they didn’t have the scientific studies to show that the use of radiation can stop the cancer and in some cases cure it.

So basically even though some problems have been tackled that were major issues in the 1800’s the government can’t say with 100% guarantee that the health of the nation is better because even though infant death rate has dropped quite a bit over the 20th century, and the life expectancy has increased by 30 years or so, the government still have problems to sort out that have developed during the 21st century, for example, the number of obese people in the UK had risen.

In relation to the problems in the 19th century, then the government can say that as a nation we are healthier, but they can only relate it to the issues that was going on in that times, for example, the number of babies with tuberculosis has dropped and it is now at a normal rate, whereas babies were dying in there thousands in the 19th century. That could be used to explain that we are now healthier than when we were in the 1800’s. This is because of scientific research, technology and proper training of staff members in hospitals and doctors surgeries.

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