London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Islington 1861

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Islington, Parish of St Mary]

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c. Local Diseases.
14. The diseases embraced under this head constitute a group of maladies,
thrown together rather from considerations of convenience than because they are
naturally or pathologically allied. Some of them, such as diseases of the respiratory
organs, acknowledge very much an atmospheric origin, and vary with temperature, prevailing
winds, and other conditions beyond our control. At the same time, a glance at the
table on the map will show how much more the less wealthy of our population suffer
from the effects of these conditions, partly in consequence of inability to provide
themselves with the needful protection of their persons from cold, wet, &c., and
partly from the neglect of adopting for their children the ordinary precautions which
the better educated classes usually observe. The mortality for the parish at large
from disease of the organs of respiration was 457, or 2-9 per 1000 living. In
the several districts the rate of mortality varied from 0-4 per 1000 to 7'6 per 1000.
The districts which furnished the highest mortality were in order as follows :—Irish
Courts, Balls-pond, Theberton, Bemerton, Battle Bridge, Church, Duncan, Lower
Road, Lower Holloway, White Conduit, and Kingsland. As to the other groups of
this class, viz., disease of the nervous system, and of the digestive system, I may say,
that so far as infants are concerned, the mortality is mainly the result of ignorant
and improper feeding, and no small proportion referred to " convulsions" would, if
the history of the disease were forthcoming, be assigned as its cause to " privation of
breast-milk." Among adults the natural changes of advancing age are too often
accelerated by intemperance and the wear and tear of ceaseless toil and anxiety.
Both with a view to lessen the mortality from these groups of maladies, as well as
from consumption, it is the duty of a sanitary officer, by the expression of his opinion,
to encourage and commend all efforts for the abridgement of the hours of work,
especially of desk, of office, and of shop-work, any rational and practicable scheme
that may be proposed for diminishing Sunday labour, for promoting healthy
recreations, for providing public parks, and for facilitating access to the quiet and
soothing influence of the country. For our own Parish, I regret yearly the slow
progress of the scheme for providing such an invaluable health-resort for our
population as the Finsbury Park promised to become.
15. The illness of one of our Inspectors, which ultimately necessitated the appointment
of a temporary inspector for the western division, who had all his work to learn, has
somewhat impeded our sanitary progress. Nevertheless Table V. will show that a
large amount of work has been got through. There were 654 complaints entered in
the Complaint Book for Nuisances during the year, all which were attended to, in
addition to those inspections made under my direction on account of prevalent
sickness, or an inordinate death rate. The slaughter houses were all inspected
in September, by the Inspectors, and also prior to the licensing, by myself. There
were 110 of them, 52 in the western and 58 in the eastern division. I was much
gratified by the improved condition which they generally presented, and which
contrasted strongly with what appeared on the first inspection which I made in 1857.
The plan of licensing is acting most satisfactorily ; the newly-built slaughter houses
especially, with but few exceptions, were models of what such places ought to be. I

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