Fighting an uphill battle : a history of public health reform in Fort William, 1892-1919
Holmes, Christopher Ron
Master of Arts
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This thesis examines the public health problems faced by the city of Fort William from the 1890s to 1919. It deals specifically with the views of local health officials and the efforts that they undertook to remedy existing public health concerns. It also includes an investigation into the extent to which the urban community cooperated with, and facilitated, local public health efforts. Was there resistance to local public health initiatives? Did the medical community always work in cooperation with city health authorities? Was the City Council always in favor of public health efforts? Each chapter begins with an examination of public health problems in Britain and North America as a whole, in order to ascertain whether or not Fort William’s experience in the area of public health was typical. Each chapter demonstrates that Fort William’s public health concerns were similar to those experienced throughout Britain and North America. With urbanization came numerous health problems, none of which was alien to Fort William. The unsanitary condition of urban centres was believed by public health reformers to be a central cause of high mortality among urban residents, along with the ingestion of impure food products. Such conditions created the ideal environment for the outbreak of infectious disease. Each chapter also demonstrates that Fort William health officials adhered to British and North American models of health reform, embracing both the sanitary idea and the germ theory o f disease causation in their attempts to prevent infectious disease from occurring. As local health authorities attempted to put these public health theories into practice, they encountered resistance from various segments of the city community, a development that was in no way different from those in other municipalities in the English-speaking world. Resistance to public health efforts came from political authorities, physicians, the business community, and the city population in general, all of whom at one time or another refused to cooperate with local health officials. This served to limit their effectiveness. Despite this opposition, however, progress was made in reducing the mortality rate in Fort William.