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How Far Had Public Health Improved 1800 – 1900? Essay Sample

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How Far Had Public Health Improved 1800 – 1900? Essay Sample

Imagine if you were working in a factory at least for 16hours in a dirty atmosphere, then when you eventually get to go home, you have to go through the smell of overflowing cesspits, and finally you enter the dingy little room with a bed in the corner filled with sleeping family, how would you feel? Well, in the 1800s- 1900s poor people lived exactly like that, because they were lacking the effectiveness of public health, which was suppose to let people live longer lives and to promote health by preventing diseases. In this essay I’ll be talking about the reasons on why the public health was so bad, also about people’s life styles and medicine, and how the study of organisms and sharing of knowledge all around the world helped.

The living conditions in the 1800s depended on the class people were in, poor people lived in the miasma of the overflowing toilets that filled the slums with narrow streets and bad ventilation, while the upper class enjoyed the nice open air and huge mansions with at least 2 dozen servants. This had a huge impact on the death rates that time.

The death rates at that time were extremely high and the life expectancy varied a lot between different classes. For example the life expectancy of an upper class person was around 50 years old, while a factory worker’s was around 35 years old. These different life expectancies shows that the people that came from wealthier families lived longer because they had better food and clean water and also they had more money to spend on medicine. A worker from a factory or field would usually die because of diseases or injuries caused by the lack of money they had, also because the medical knowledge wasn’t as developed at that time all around the world, as today.

In the 1800s doctors did not know what caused the diseases and thought the germs were the result of diseases and not their causes. There were several common deadly diseases in the 1800s were sicknesses like Cholera, this disease was caused by the pollution of water and the germs in people’s excretion. Dr. John Snow was the first to discover that the most likely cause of the disease was because there was untreated sewage water polluting the river Thames, then being transported to all the pumps for the people to drink.

Diseases were not as well known then as now, people often died of diseases that weren’t treatable yet, or injuries that caused infection. One disease was the smallpox, it killed 40% of the victims and left the others badly scarred, deaf or blind. Luckily Edward Jenner discovered a vaccination that worked against smallpox by studying the milkmaids who never caught smallpox (just a milder form of it called cowpox). In 1796 Jenner took the pus from a cowpox scab and injected it into a boy. The boy showed no reaction to the injection and didn’t catch smallpox. This was a big improvement in the medical world because there were other injections for smallpox however they were often fatal. In addition to this discovery of a vaccine for smallpox.

Joseph Lister (1827-1912) also discovered a carbolic acid spray that proved to be very useful in preventing wounds from getting gangrene. With the anesthetic and antiseptic surgeons operated on patients more easily, they had more time because the patient wouldn’t faint or scream, and it was safer too. A source shows that in 1864-66 (without antiseptic) had 19 survivors out of 35 cases leaving a percentage of 46 of the ones who had died; in 1867-70 34 out of 40 people survived which was a 31% decrease of deaths in operation.

There was a public health act in 1848 due to the cause of another out brake of Cholera, this was because that the rich thought the poor was responsible for the diseases they caught and the conditions they lived in. Edwin Chadwick was one of the Board of Health, which was given the task by Parliament of investigating the living conditions around Britain. However some towns refused to set up boards, until in 1875 the public health act forced towns to carry out these improvements. In addition to the Public Health act there were many philanthropists, one of the most famous one was George Peabody who gave $9 million for developing housing for working class people, and sewers to be cleaned and direct plumbing to all the older houses.

Factories were a dangerous place to work. Injuries, bad meals, not enough sleep, beatings were all part of your life if you worked at a factory. Sources from the past shows that people working in the factory were working at least 18 hours a day with scanty wages in a dirty and dangerous environment. Not only was the environment bad because of the cramped and the sicknesses, the food was disgusting and unhealthy, and their clothes were uncomfortable, ragged and could get caught in machinery.

There were many children working at the factories too however they were treated the same as the adults, same working hours, same food and the same wages. However they often gave more dangerous jobs to the children that adults couldn’t do, like crawling under the machine and finding objects that fell down, or cleaning the machines. However they turned out more unhealthy and injured than the older workers because the children didn’t get enough healthy food and was beaten often. Also the injuries were sometimes fatal, or caused the distortion of limbs.

There was also a Factory Act in 1833 that solved some of the problems in child labor, for example all the children had to have a one hour lunch break and could not work at night, while the 14-18 year olds must not work for more than 12 hours a day; Children aged 9–13 must not work for more than 8 hours; Children aged 9–13 must have two hours of education per day.

However there was a few problems, 1st there weren’t enough inspectors(4) to inspect all the factories in Britain, 2nd, of the 4 inspectors many of them could’ve taken bribes from the factory owners and 3rd the fines were not heavy so the factory owners ended up breaking a lot of rules, paying a small fine and then getting a large profit from breaking the rules.

In conclusion I believe that the public health had improved a lot since 1800s, in England and other countries too! Not only had major scientists discovered major vaccinations and medicines, some philanthropists or board of health governors made the towns and cities a better and more sanitized place to live for the citizens in Britain of the 1800s to 1900s.

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