All posts in Blog Posts

Becoming emotional about public health

For me, writing history is an emotional process. Last week in the Wellcome Library archive I got the giggles reading an editor’s commentary on a draft of a safer-sex leaflet from 1987. The text was a 1987 Brook pamphlet on condom negotiation and HIV that had a wide…

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Horses for Courses (of vaccination) – the role of animals in the early diphtheria immunisation programme

Placing the Public focuses on the human public, and the strand of the project on vaccination is no exception to this. But it is impossible to write a history of immunisation without reference to animals. From the use of cowpox in eighteenth-century experiments on smallpox immunisation to the debates…

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Placing the Public in Public Health Reading Group – What we’re reading

Every month the Placing the Public in Public Health research team meet to discuss a piece of reading and how it relates to our project themes. We’ve found this a particularly useful way to advance our thinking around broad concepts such as the ‘public’.

This month we’re reading…

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Dealing with the ‘Don’t Knows’ in public opinion and public health surveys

In 1944, the Daily Express columnist Beachcomber mocked social surveys by imagining a study on the accuracy of the measurement ‘a hairsbreadth.’

He wrote; ‘let [researchers from Gallup and Mass Observation] tear people’s hair out in handfuls in the cause of accuracy. Ninety-three per cent wouldn’t know…

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Public figures and public health

Dwight D. Eisenhower. Marc Bolan. Jade Goody. Separated by generation, historical importance and orbits of fame, at first glance they appear to have precious little in common. Nonetheless, all are public figures that have in some way influenced public perceptions of public health.

It takes little imagination to think how…

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Vaccination and celebrity – The meningitis B vaccine debate in context

We’ve seen a number of stories of late about how certain parents are eschewing vaccination for their children. At the School, Heidi Larson’s team is doing important work on the spread of ‘vaccine hesitancy’ and the extent of ‘vaccine confidence’. And it’s not that long ago that…

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Vaccination Exhibition 3: Scientific Knowledge

Vaccination is a complicated process. It involves coordination between many different areas of public life, so that immunisations can be manufactured, distributed and given to people. At the heart of it, however, you need an effective vaccine. That requires research in the laboratory.

At the top of the page is…

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Vaccination Exhibition 2: Communication

Public health has used “propaganda” to convey its message for a long time. Public information films, posters, leaflets, presentations at local meetings: all of these forms of education and persuasion are seen as vital when trying to get the general population to take precautions against disease.

While modern-day efforts…

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Vaccination Exhibition 1: Eradicating Disease

The great success story of vaccination in the twentieth century was the eradication of smallpox. Although other public health techniques such as isolation and containment were necessary to eliminate the last few wild cases, vaccination was a key weapon against the disease from the late eighteenth century right up to…

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Public health posters: beyond parody?

Some things just don’t date well. Although public health communicators have used posters to put across their messages since the invention of the medium, the combination of images and words used can seem rather strange to us now.  Take, for instance this poster from 1977 which is intended to…

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