What did ‘The Great War’ do for Public Health?, Rosalind Stanwell-Smith, Hon. Senior Lecturer, Centre for History in Public Health

Date: Monday 15 September 2014
Time: 5:30 pm 6:30 pm
Venue: Manson Lecture Theatre, LSHTM, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK
Type of event: Seminar
Speaker(s): Rosalind Stanwell-Smith, Hon. Senior Lecturer, Centre for History in Public Health

Histories of public health tend to date our modern practice to the reorganization of national and international systems following World War II.  But this was only possible because of the lessons learned in previous wars, in particular the global impact of WWI.  The tragic experiences of this ‘war to end all wars’ provided a major impetus to improved welfare and housing and to increasing involvement of the State in managing population health.  It’s no accident that public health and military share a common vocabulary, such as campaigns, officers, surveillance, strategies – and the occasional victory.  The personnel in both fields share a respect for protocols and hierarchical service – also the application of new technology.  For WWI, this included rapid communications via field telephones, mobile triage and treatment units, improved water and sanitation, blood transfusion, immunisation and more efficient, although not always effective, methods of controlling the spread of infectious disease.  Use of media for health promotion became widespread – and there was also the social effect of the high death toll, first use of rationing for food shortages, the increasing role of women in the workforce and a focus on the health of children and factory workers.  Some of the lessons were too painful to be analysed at the time, for example the inability to control the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, because they did not fit with the rhetoric of an ever more triumphant application of public health to disease and wellbeing.

Packed with images and highlights from the military and civilian front, this lecture aims to show how contemporary public health has echoes both of the gained knowledge of this eventful period, as well as its lost innocence.

Admission: Registration required, see url below

Email: events@lshtm.ac.uk
More information: http://great-war-public-health.eventbrite.co.uk