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Rock Street, San Francisco

In the mid 1800s there were many outbreaks of cholera effecting and killing hundreds of people. It was in 1854 that a Doctor called John Snow discovered the cause behind the disease. Snow realised there was a link between cholera and water and meticulously researched this until there was no doubt that his theory was correct. His investigation involved looking at the case of a widow who lived in the suburbs, an area that was clear of cholera, but she still died of the disease. It was discovered that she had a bottle of water from the pump in Broad Street sent to her every day.This lead to Snow investigating the water in Broad Street and went on to discover that the water was infected and was rapidly spreading the disease.

When Snow had enough evidence to prove this he was allowed to remove the handle of the Broad Street water pump and no more deaths caused by cholera followed. Although cholera and disease were causing major problems there was a lot of opposition to public health reforms. A man called Edwin Chadwick wrote a report on how sanitary conditions could be improved, in both countryside and cities.However, Chadwick’s ideas posed a problem for the government.

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The government knew Chadwick was right, but it was a matter for the Local Ratepayers, but the Local Ratepayers were trying to reduce the cost the cost of looking after the poor and sick, not increase it. Nothing was done until there was another cholera epidemic in 1848. Parliament was forced to pass the Public Health Act of 1848 and local authorities were encouraged to improve the conditions of their area. The main reason that there was opposition to the reforms was the issue of money.It was very expensive to make the suggested improvements, so only a few local authorities actually took on the new ideas. By the end of the Victorian period public health in Britain had finally been improved. Local authorities were forced to provide clean water, proper drainage and sewers and appoint medical officers, due to the 1857 Public Health Act.

Education was also improved so more people were literate, and could read leaflets from the medical officers and learn about health care.In addition, compulsory vaccinations were introduced, along with regulation of doctors qualifications, building regulations and food regulations. Also, in 1876 laws were introduced against pollution of rivers and water supplies, and in 1889 isolation hospitals were brought in for infectious diseases.

Although it seemed like all health issues had been addressed there were still many people living in poor conditions, but overall healthcare had improved dramatically.

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