Attempts to Prevent Illness and Disease

Attempts to Prevent Illness and Disease

Middle Ages (c.500-c.1500)

  • A miasma theory dominated, suggesting that bad smells caused diseases. People attempted to prevent illness by improving cleanliness and avoiding foul smells.
  • Usage of protective charms, prayers, and amulets was prevalent due to a belief that God sent diseases as a punishment.
  • People practised quarantine during epidemic outbreaks like the Black Death.

Early Modern Perod (1500-1800)

  • Plague orders were issued by local governments to segregate the sick and enforce quarantine during plague outbreaks.
  • People still adhered to the miasma theory and aimed to prevent diseases by preserving ‘cleanliness’.
  • The implementation of Poor Laws aimed to provide medical relief for the poor.

19th Century

  • Discovery of vaccination by Edward Jenner changed the prevention approach to smallpox.
  • The Public Health Act 1875 enforced sanitation improvements, including clean water supply and sewage systems, based on Edwin Chadwick’s report.
  • Louis Pasteur’s germ theory replaced miasma theory, leading to development of antiseptic practices in surgery by Joseph Lister.

20th Century to Present Day

  • The introduction of mass immunisation campaigns after World War II helped to prevent many diseases.
  • The establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 aimed to provide free healthcare to all.
  • Development of antibiotics provided a groundbreaking method of preventing bacterial infections.
  • In recent years, public health campaigns like anti-smoking campaigns aim to prevent lifestyle-related illnesses.