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Public health refers to measures to prevent disease, prolong life and promote the health of populations. Our public health timeline covers the response to disease outbreaks, the introduction of public health services and campaigns, and England’s experience of environmental threats to health over time. While currently there can be a focus on health services at the expense of population health, throughout the 19th century it was arguably public health developments (and not developments in the provision of health services) that had some of the greatest impact on health outcomes. The timeline charts developments in sanitation and the environment, the bacteriological revolution, ‘social hygiene’ and ‘new public health’. There are however a number of overlaps between this timeline and the others, that focus on the development of the provider landscape and broader developments in health care.

Click here to explore the timeline

Given the nature of the timeline, developments are charted in chronological order and focus quite heavily on legislation and government developments. As such, the timeline focuses more on the ‘victors and celebrated individuals’ rather than the alternative paths. We could have easily chosen alternative drivers such as economic progress, fear of the poor and scientific developments.

This timeline gives a very high-level overview and will no doubt contain some omissions. We hope however that it will give a flavour of some of the major developments in public health and record some of the more modern policy changes that have been made at a national level. For an easily accessible book we can recommend Public health in history by Berridge et al and the Faculty of Public Health’s chronology of state medicine.

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