Edwin Chadwick believed that disease limited people’s ability to survive and succeed. He observed that a sick worker does not perform as well as a healthy worker, and as a result could become unemployed and impoverished. Parents killed by disease leave children orphaned and impoverished as well. Chadwick decided, therefore, that it was important to prevent disease, thereby helping society to reach its full potential. His idea helped lead to the first public health law in Great Britain, which in turn led to better health laws in other countries such as France and the United States.
For me, Chadwick’s concept is just as important today. Countries spend billions of dollars on public health, including medical research. Scientists spend countless hours hoping to develop cures and treatments to combat disease. But despite great progress, newly discovered diseases and new strands of known diseases continue causing problems and death. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website, over the last 31 years an average of 36,000 people died annually in the US from contracting the seasonal flu. One might expect that given the amount of progress that has been made in medical research, the flu would have been completely eradicated by now. We put a man on the moon but cannot get rid of the flu, or even the common cold! It is frightening to think about what might happen if there were a major outbreak of the flu or another infectious disease which could not be controlled. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed 20-40 million people according to Molly Billings’ article The Influenza Pandemic of 1918. More recently, scientists have been concerned about avian flu, swine flu, and other infectious diseases, which could spread and kill millions of people. There is also great concern about potential harm that could be caused by a bioterrorism attack that deliberately spreads diseases to harm people. Scientists must keep working to prevent the spread of disease (whether spread naturally or purposefully). Hopefully, countries remember Chadwick and continue to provide sufficient resources to scientists to study and cure disease and sicknesses.