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A History of Public Health

Iga Kusumawardhani
(6411417141 / Rombel 5)
History provides a perspective to develop an
understanding of health problems of communities and how
to cope with them. We see through the eyes of the past
how societies conceptualized and dealt with disease. All
societies must face the realities of disease and death, and
develop concepts and methods to manage them.
These coping strategies form part of a worldview
associated with a set of cultural or scientific beliefs, which
in turn help to determine the curative and preventive
approaches to health.
The history of public health is a story of the search for
effective means of securing health and preventing disease
in the population. Epidemic and endemic infectious disease
stimulated thought and innovation in disease prevention
on a pragmatic basis, often before the causation was
established scientifically. The prevention of disease in
populations revolves around defining diseases, measuring
their occurrence, and seeking effective interventions.
Is considered to be 4.5 billion years old, with the
earliest stone tools dating from 2.5 million years BCE
representing the presence of antecedents of man. Homo
erectus lived from 1.5 million to 500,000 years ago and
Homo sapiens Neanderthalensis at about 110,000 BCE.
The Paleolithic Age is the earliest stage of man’s
development where organized societal structures are
known to have existed. These social structures consisted
of people living in bands which survived by hunting and
gathering food. There is evidence of use of fire going
back some 230,000 years, and increasing sophistication
of stone tools, jewelry, cave paintings, and religious
symbols during this period. Modern man evolved from
Homo sapiens, probably originating in Africa and the
Middle East about 90,000 years ago, and appearing in
Europe during the Ice Age period from 40,000–35,000
Some cultures equated cleanliness with godliness and
associated hygiene with religious beliefs and practices.
Chinese, Egyptian, Hebrew, Indian, and Incan societies all
provided sanitary amenities as part of the religious belief
system and took measures to provide water, sewage, and
drainage systems. This allowed for successful urban
settlement and reinforced the beliefs upon which such
practices were based. Personal hygiene was part of
religious practice. Technical achievements in providing
hygiene at the community level slowly evolved as part of
urban society.
The Cordova Medical Academy was a principal
center for medical knowledge and scholarship prior to
the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain and the
Inquisition. The Academy helped stimulate European
medical thinking and the beginnings of western medical
science in anatomy, physiology, and descriptive clinical
In the early middle ages, most physicians in Europe
were monks, and the medical literature was compiled
from ancient sources. In 1131 and 1215, Papal rulings
increasingly restricted clerics from doing medical work,
thus promoting secular medical practice. In 1224,
Emperor Frederick II of Sicily published decrees regulating
medical practice, establishing licensing requirements:
medical training (3 years of philosophy, 5 years of
In Russia, Peter the Great (1682–1725) initiated political,
cultural, and health reforms. He sent young aristocrats to
study sciences and technology in Western Europe,
including medicine. He established the first hospital-based
medical school in St. Petersburg and then in other centers,
mainly to train military doctors. He established the
Anatomical Museum of the Imperial Academy of Sciences
in St. Petersburg in 1717, and initiated a census of males
for military service in 1722. In 1724, V. N. Tateshev carried
out a survey by questionnaire of all regions of the Russian
empire regarding epidemic disease and methods of

Registration of births and deaths forms the basis of

demography. Epidemiology as a discipline borrows from
demography, sociology, and statistics. The basis of scientific
reasoning in these fields emerged in the early seventeenth
century with inductive reasoning enunciated by Francis
Bacon and applied by Robert Boyle in chemistry, Isaac
Newton in physics, William Petty in economics, and John
Graunt in demography. Bacon’s writing inspired a whole
generation of scientists in different fields and led to the
founding of the Royal Society.
Thankyou 