History of Health

A Short History of Health Issues & Development of Medications


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Friends, I hope you get the basic idea of health from my previous content that what is health. Let’s gather some knowledge about the history of health.

The history of health is derived from many historical ideas, trial and error, and the development of basic sciences, technology, and epidemiology. Studying history of health is important because it provides a perspective to develop an understanding of health problems of communities and how to cope with them.

From history of health, we can know how societies conceptualized and dealt with disease. All societies must face the realities of disease and death, and develop concepts and methods to manage them. These strategies evolved from scientific knowledge and trial and error, but are associated with cultural and societal conditions, beliefs and practices that are important in determining health status and curative and preventive interventions to improve health.[1]

History of Health Issues & Development of Medications

History of Health

History of Health

Contents in this article

  1. Ancient Times
  2. Early Health Civilizations
  3. Dark and Middle Ages
  4. The Renaissance
  5. Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century
  6. Eighteenth Century
  7. Twentieth Century
  8. References

Ancient Times

The ancient Greeks’ apprehension of health and illness was based on the theory of the four ‘fluids’ (blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile) that is in its turn premised on the theory of the four elements (fire, earth, water and air) and their four corresponding qualities (heat, dry, humid and cold). All these theories have as a starting point the number 4, which was of great significance for Pythagorean philosophy that dominated the pre-Socratic period.[2]

In ancient times, man believed in the injuries or disease inflicted by spirits or other worldly predators. People had to rely on the available resources for treatment. They mostly used plant and plant extracts such as Digitalis[3] from Foxglove Plant and Quinine[4] from bark of Cinchona Tree etc.

Early Health Civilizations

Egyptians were the earliest civilizations to keep accurate health records. They were superstitious, believed in calling upon Gods and were able to identify certain diseases.

At that time, priests were considered to be the doctors. Magicians were also considered to be the healers. Research on Mummies[5] has revealed the existence of diseases like Arthritis and Kidney Stones.

Jewish people avoided medical practice. They believed that God is the only physician. They concentrated on health rules concerning food, cleanliness and quarantine.

Greeks were the first to study the cause of the disease and helped to eliminate superstition. Hippocrates[6], the father of medicine, wrote the standards of ethics which forms the basis for today’s medical ethics.

Romans learned from Greeks and developed public health systems. They were the first to organize medical care with Army hospitals.

Dark and Middle Ages

During the Dark Ages the learning and culture of the Greco-Roman world was preserved. Medicine was practiced only in convents and monasteries. Custodial care[7] was provided. Life and death was considered to be in God’s Hands.

The most important disease of the period was leprosy[8], manifested by a continent-wide epidemic beginning in the 16th century. Beside this, Plagues, Small Pox, Diphtheria, Syphilis, Measles, Typhoid and Tuberculosis were rampant.

The Renaissance

It was during the Renaissance, a period of great commercial, scientific, cultural, and political development, that the bubonic plague, or ‘Black Death’, swept over Europe and the Near East killing an estimated one-fourth to one-third of the population between 1347 and 1351.[9]

At that time, medical researchers continued their Renaissance-evoked practices into the late 1600s. Progress made during the Medical Renaissance depended on several factors and book publishing was started.

Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century

This was the time after the renaissance, where more continuous discoveries flourished in the medical field. Apothecaries[10] were pharmacists from this time who created, prescribed and sold medicines for people.

The microscope was invented in 1666 and was used to examine infections and diseases. And the Average life span was raised to 35 to 40 years old.

Stiching was invented as a better and safer method of closing wounds and to stop bleeding.

Fallopian tubes were found in the female anatomy and discovered how it relates to pregnancy and menstruation.

Prosthetic limbs were invented for the treatment of broken bones and fractures. Blood circulation was identified and the first blood transfusion was accomplished from animals to humans.

Eighteenth Century

In the 18th century the search for a simple way of healing the sickness continued. Doctors were at the top of the professional Hierarchy in the 18th century. A Doctor was considered to be a man of science.

A Doctor would concentrate in his work on three specific important aspects. These aspects required a good knowledge about everything about medicine and pharmacy. The three aspects were:

  • The diagnosis (identifying the problem)
  • The prognosis (predicting the evolution of an illness and possibility of curing.)
  • The prescription (choice of medicine and treatment).

During 18th century, Smallpox Vaccination was developed, Oxygen was discovered, Bifocals and Stethoscope was invented.

Twentieth Century

The rate of medical advance during the 20th century was enormous, due to improvements in technology as well as new scientific discoveries. Rapid growth in health care in X-rays, Medicines, like antibiotics to fight bacterial infection and vaccines to prevent diseases are a new development that saves many lives.
Achievements In Safer Healthier food, Safer Workplaces, Organ Transplants, Control of Infectious, Vaccinations, Diseases.

By the end of the century, the major global health problems included the various consequences of atmospheric warming; the rapid growth of the world’s population; the emergence of new infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus); and the increased production and use of addictive drugs. Beside this the new health hazards are Diabetics, Neuroses, Lung Cancer, Breast Cancer, Hypertension, Leukemia etc. These are daunting challenges for the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international agencies.

From the history of health, we come to know the evolution of health is a continuing process. In order to face the challenges ahead, it is important to have an understanding of the past. Experience from the past is a vital tool in the formulation of health policy. An understanding of the evolution and context of those challenges and innovative ideas can help us to navigate the public health world of today and the future.

To learn more, you can go through my next article different Types of Health.


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By Post : Aug 16, 2018

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