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Public health

Government and Public Health

In an attempt to control the living and working environment of the people, the government aimed to improve public health by passing a number of new laws.

To help you remember these Acts you can classify them in various ways:

  • hygiene
  • housing
  • working conditions
  • medical care

You can also divide them into those Acts which:

  • forced people to take action
  • only encouraged them to do something
  • set up national standards
  • were aimed at local governments
  • only dealt with one thing
  • others included a wide range of topics.

Here are the Acts and the key points they were aiming to enforce:

Teenager sitting, dressed in period clothing
  • 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act Medical Officers were appointed to workhouses which provided basic medical care for the poor.
  • 1848 Public Health Act The Central Board of Health was created and although it was abolished 10 years later, the Act also encouraged local Boards of Health to be set up to appoint a Medical Officer, provide sewers, inspect lodging houses and check food which was offered for sale.
  • 1853 Vaccinations were made compulsory although no one was given the power to enforce them.
  • 1855 Nuisance Removal Act This Act made overcrowded housing illegal.
  • 1864 Factory Act This made unhealthy conditions in factories illegal.
  • 1866 Sanitary Act This made local authorities responsible for sewers, water and street cleaning.
  • 1868 This Act encouraged the improvement of slum housing or its demolition.
  • 1871 Vaccinations Act This made sure that the previous Vaccinations Act was obeyed.
  • 1875 Artisans Dwelling Act This made the house owners responsible for keeping their properties in good order and gave local authorities the right to buy and demolish slums if they were not improved.
  • 1875 Public Health Act This brought together a range of Acts covering sewerage and drains, water supply, housing and disease. Local authorities had to appoint Medical Officers in charge of public health. Local sanitary inspectors were appointed to look after slaughterhouses and prevent contaminated food being sold. Local authorities were ordered to cover sewers, keep them in good condition, supply fresh water to their citizens, collect rubbish and provide street lighting.


Video clip - Government and public health 1866 - 1875

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Video clip - Government and public health 1875 - 1906

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Black and white photograph of medical examination

Class Clips

Report on improving public health care since 1840


Child in a dramatisation of the 1832 cholera epidemic.

Class Clips

Dramatisation of the UK cholera epidemic of 1832


Cityscape of Cottonopolis

Muck and Brass

Run a city at the height of the Industrial Revolution

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