Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]
Unfortunately the percentage in this group, which has always been chosen as
the index group, fell back one unit in 1933 to 94.8, a disappointing result when the
condition of the other groups was better in this respect than ever before. The reason
why the 12-year-old girls were chosen as an index is that they have always given the
worst result of all the groups, for mothers expect the older girls to look after their
personal cleanliness themselves.
In the year 1934 the percentage of 11-year-old girls entirely free from vermin is
94.8, being exactly the same as that of the 12-year-old girls in the previous year.
It must be remembered that the parents are warned of the medical inspections
upon which these figures are based, and the children appear spick and span for the
occasion. The figures given in these results are therefore better than would be the
case at surprise inspections, such as those carried out by the nurses in their rota visits
to the schools.
It is now very rare for the school doctor to find a child actually infested with
body vermin; a condition which 3 to 4 per cent. of the elementary school children
exhibited in the early days of medical inspection. Only 65 children were found in
the age groups to be affected by body vermin in 1934, or less than one in 2,300.
The remarkable progress since the inauguration of the school medical service in
freeing the children of the elementary schools from parasitic infestation has been
accompanied by the raising of the general level of care, of tidiness and of happiness,
and forms by no means the least of the benefits which the school medical service
has brought to the schools, the teachers, and the population generally.
When the children are undressed by the nurse preparatory to the medical
inspection, she enters on the medical record card a note of the condition of the clothing
and footwear. At a time of stress it is likely in most instances that the first sign of
struggle will be a deterioration in clothing rather than in nutrition. In the following
table the figures for 1934 are compared with those for 1921 :—
* 7.year-old children. † 11.year-old children.
It is found that while bad clothing and footwear are distinctly less frequent
than formerly there has been a transfer from the "good" column to the "fair"
column of from one to eight per cent. The indications from this survey are that
while indigence and neglect have been alleviated things are "tighter" amongst
those above the poverty line, and that clothing has suffered to some extent in order
to provide sufficient food.
Following upon the smaller numbers of children reported as treated for dental
defect in 1933, the proportion of children found during 1934 in a satisfactory dental
condition has declined, being 65.7 compared with 67.4 per cent. in 1933 and 1932
respectively, but is still better than that for former years, e.g., 64.4 per
cent. in 1931, and 62.9 per cent. in 1930.