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

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London County Council 1912

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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Report of the County Medical Officer—Education.
These figures show very little difference in the various schools. The boys show a decided preponderance
over the girls; and the numbers appear to be decidedly less in the infants in the C schools;
taken as a whole the results of operation have been very satisfactory, more care is taken nowadays in
directing the parent as to after care, and in most cases improvement is noticed by the teachers in
the children's aptitude for school work.

Out of 13,500 children in the boys' and girls' divisions in various schools the numbers wearing glasses were as follows :—


The numbers appear fairly uniform; the girls preponderate in all cases except the A schools.
It was thought at first that this might be due to the parents in the A schools being more willing to go
to the expense of glasses for the boys whilst the parents of the B and C schools only made an effort
on behalf of the girls; but it was found that in the children examined in the A schools the boys with
defective vision were also in the majority.

Of the children examined the following percentages were found to have defective vision -

Schools.Boys 8.Girls 8.Boys 12.Girls 12.

It appears from this table that the vision of boys in the A schools is materially worse than that
of the girls; Dr. Pinchin is unable to give any explanation as to why this should be so. The vision,
however, of the girls as a whole is worse than the boys, and in some schools is extremely bad.
Taking the unexamined children as being about equal to those examined and adding those that
are already wearing glasses, we get a total of 10-15 per cent. of children with defective sight.
Dr. Pinchin points out that unfortunately it is still possible in the higher classes of the infants'
department in some schools to see the children striving with their needle with the objective work held
from 4 to 5 inches from their eyes; the evils arising from this practice have been repeatedly pointed
out. It is difficult to see what advantage is gained by teaching needlework to children of this age;
it requires fine co-ordinated movements, which are trying both to the nervous system and the vision,
and the children are trained in the bad habit of fixing their eyes close to the work in hand, and carry
this habit with them to the boys' and girls' departments.
In this connection Dr. Pinchin describes a visit to the lowest Standard of a boys' school during
a writing lesson, where he found nearly all the children with their eyes much too close to their work
although attention had been repeatedly directed to this fault.

The total number of children suffering from definite valvular disease is 1.5per cent.

Schools.Infants.Boys 8.Girls 8.Boys 12.Girls 12.

As would be expected many more cases are found in the poorer class schools.
Rheumatism as such is not complained of in a great number of cases, but a history of fairly
severe "growing pains" and abdominal pain probably due to rheumatism is very frequent, more
especially in the low-lying districts and poorer schools. Although medical opinion at present
encourages all sorts of games for children it is a question whether a strenuous game such as football,
especially match games, should be allowed in poorly nourished children who may be
suffering from rheumatic carditis.
In an examination of 25 boys recently, 2 were found to be suffering from markedly dilated
hearts. Dr. Pinchin says: "I was informed after the inspection that I had excluded from football
the two best boys in the team and the only two of the team who happened to be in the 25 examined;
they had played in a match a few days before and were both of them ' seedy ' afterwards."