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

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Walthamstow 1962

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Walthamstow]

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The annual rainfall at the Perry Lane Station was 22.37 inches.
In 1961 it was 23.82 inches.
Severe flooding occurred in many areas of the Borough on one
occasion and in a limited number of areas on two further occasions.
Five Decades of Life and Death in Walthamstow
Contributed by Dr. Geoffrey H.G. Poole.
When Walthamstow's first Medical Officer of Health, Dr. J.J.Clarke,
wrote his Annual Report for 1911 he described conditions which,
contrasted with those of today, show clearly the progress which has
been made in preventive medicine and the public health during the past
fifty years.
Walthamstow, in those days, was a new town; the population of just
over 125,000 had trebled in twenty years (from 46,500 in 1890). There
were comparatively few old people and many more children in population
(25,000 on the school rolls) but the expectation of life was only just
over 50 years. The death-rate remained steady at 11.7 but the birthrate
had begun to decline rapidly from 37 per thousand population in
1901 to 25.3 in 1911. Dr. Clarke comments:-
"The influences tending to restriction of family seem 1
to be operative alike in town and country, and are probably
due to the spread of education amongst the lower strata of
the population, who seem less inclined than heretofore
thoughtlessly to beget their kind, whose disabilities begin
and end with life and death."
A certain amount of pomposity was accepted, and even expected,
from doctors in those days. Now we express ourselves rather
differently about family planning. In the words of the Royal
Commission on Population (1949) "Public policy should assume and seek
to encourage voluntary parenthood."
The comparatively high mortality in a predominantly young
population was due, in large measure, to the incidence of infectious
diseases which attacked about a thousand of the inhabitants every year.
Table I shows the incidence of (then) notifiable infectious diseases
contrasted with that of 1961 -


Diphtheria (including Membraneous Group)2873000
Scarlet Pever38751270
Enteric Pever23310
Puerperal Pever4200