The Contribution of Edwin Chadwick

By Siti Jamilah

An economic and industrial boom in Great Britain as a result of Industrial Revolution led to the rapid growth of cities and urban population as large number of people migrated to the cities to work mainly in manufacturing sectors. Consequently, the issue of cleanliness became a major problem in these rapidly growing cities. The city people suffered seriously with the spread of cholera after this urbanization process in Great Britain.

The issue of poverty became another problem as the workers did not get sufficient salaries to survive in the cities, to gain efficient medical treatment or to have the choice of healthy food.

Sir Edwin Chadwick (1800–1890) was an English social reformer, who tried to reform the Laws and improve sanitary conditions and public health. Chadwick believed that diseases and death actually caused by poverty. He started to organize an effective solution to the issue of cleanliness in the cities.

Chadwick started his action by collecting detailed reports from local Poor Law officials regarding the sanitary conditions within working population. He spent around three years to determine the causes and solutions, which are provided in his own report.

For him, the main causes for widespread diseases were the lack of effective drainage system, garbage collection, air pollution, and polluted rivers. Thus, he suggested that the government should provide adequate clean-piped water that is essential for personal hygiene, the establishment of street cleaning structure and effective drainage system for running the water.

In 1846, Chadwick’s report became the most important reference for the Great Britain’s first Public Health Law. It formulated a national Health Board to create a modern sanitary system urgently as the cholera epidemic widely spread out throughout the Britain during that period.

To summarize, Sir Chadwick made a valuable contribution to the establishment of sanitary system in Great Britain. His findings hastened the government to take serious actions urgently and adopt the policy of guarantying the citizens with healthy environment comfortable to implement their daily activities.

This movement later led to positive improvements in medical field, such as discovering the diseases caused by microorganisms known as ‘microbe’ by Louis Pasteur, the formulation of antiseptics, germinology and other fields of science, which all were the result of the activities aimed at health care among the British.