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19th Century Public Health

Overview of public health developments in 19th century Britian. GCSE Medicine

Frances Gilbert

on 11 July 2013

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Transcript of 19th Century Public Health

Government Action
Dr John Snow investigated theory that Cholera spread through infected water;

Marked on a map all the deaths in one area;

Clear concentration of deaths around a water pump on Broad Street;

Snow had handle of pump removed;

Number of deaths fell dramatically.
1854 Cholera Outbreak
Central Board of Health created;
Set up local Boards of Health;
appoint local Medical Officer;
build sewer system;
organise rubbish removal.


1/3 towns set up board of health;
Few medical officers;
General Board of Health abolished 1858;
Chadwick not appointed to any other position.
Public Health Act 1848
Public Health

Key Individuals
Scientific understanding
Chance (cholera)
Government action
Government Action
John Snow

proved link between water and Cholera;
death rates varied according to water sources used by different water companies;

Louis Pasteur
germ theory (1861) showed how disease spread and why hygiene was important;

William Farr
statistics on births, marriages and deaths – showed death rate higher in towns and cities than villages
Attitude of Laissez-faire;

Water companies (reduce their profits);

Middle Class – pay tax to help poor;

Chadwick’s ideas received attention but little actually done until 1848 Cholera epidemic
Opposition to Report
disease was a major problem;

poor, cramped living conditions;

infectious diseases spread easily; Smallpox, tuberculosis (TB), typhoid fever all major killers;

1831 – Cholera epidemic;

Local authorities under pressure to take action
Spread of Disease
British cities increased rapidly;

Factory towns became crowded;

houses built closely together;

damp, overcrowded and dirty;

no sewers - piles of waste everywhere.
Industrial Revolution
‘Great Stink’
persuaded Metropolitan Board of Works to agree to
Joseph Bazalgette
’s plan for a sewer system in London.
Local authorities expected to use taxes to make provision in workhouses for too old, weak, ill to support themselves

1842 published
‘The Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population’

cheaper to use taxes to improve housing and hygiene;
improve access to clean water;
remove sewage and rubbish.
Edwin Chadwick
Growth in Urban Populations 1801-1851
1866 Sanitary Act:
Local authorities responsible for sewers, water and street cleaning.

1875 Artisans Dwelling Act:
house owners responsible for keeping their properties in good order

Local authorities the right to buy and demolish slums if they were not improved.
1875 Public Health Act
– local councils responsible for:
providing clean water;
paving streets;
removing rubbish;
building sewers;
improving quality of housing;
checking quality of food in shops.

By the late 19th century local councils were competing with each other to provide the best public health.
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