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

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London County Council 1962

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

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male officer is available as required. One of the women officers works full-time from
Holloway Prison while the remainder work in co-operation with the clinics at St. Mary's,
St. Paul's, St. Thomas's, the Eastern, the London and the Royal Free hospitals.
Having no statutory powers enabling them to compel contacts to attend for examination,
the welfare officers must rely solely on a tactful approach, the establishment of confidence
and an ability to prove to contacts that examination and, if necessary, treatment are essential.
This can be a time-consuming and unrewarding task, often best approached by appealing
to a client's self-interest in the maintenance of her health; any approach on moral and
reformative grounds is unlikely to succeed.
Whatever future advances may occur in the methods of treating venereal disease, its
prevention and eventual eradication will depend, while immunisation is impracticable,
upon the gradual reduction of the sources of infection and here health education has an
important part to play.
The role of health education—Health education for school children and for the students
of further education establishments is a matter for the Council's Education Officer and his
Chief Inspector in considering the revision of the Council's pamphlet on sex education
in schools in order to bring it up to date in the light of modern conditions. There are also
proposals to form a Standing Committee of teachers, doctors and others interested in
health education, to consider ways in which schools could be helped to continue and to
expand health education. The problem of venereal disease will be one of the first matters
to be considered by this new Committee. An Advisory Panel on Health Education was
set up in the Public Health department in 1954. The members are selected from senior
medical and nursing staff at the central office and the nine health divisions and include a
divisional administrative officer. The problem of health education in venereal diseases for
adolescents is being carefully studied by the panel.
The measures taken must be carefully planned if adverse reactions in parents, teachers
or the children themselves are to be avoided. The subject itself must be introduced to
children as part of a wider campaign of education in citizenship rather than as an isolated
subject. There is at present a serious lack of suitable films, film strips, posters and leaflets
designed as teaching aids for different age levels. Such material is needed for group
discussions with staff, parents and young adults as well as for school children, but a film
which is admirable for one group may be quite unsuitable for others.
New and appropriate sites for the display of posters and leaflets, so that they reach a
wider public, must be sought in consultation with medical officers of health of the
metropolitan boroughs and the Home Counties and such consultations are already taking
Health departments through their health education services can however play only a
minor though important role in the prevention of the great moral problems of promiscuity,
illegitimacy and venereal diseases. These great issues must be tackled nationally on a much
broader front.

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