The Industrial Revolution was a time of dramatic social, economical and technological changes. It was a period that was defined by a major and rapid transition from an agricultural and commercial society (an economy based on manual labor) to a modern industrial society dominated by new technology powered machines (an economy based on complex machinery). The Industrial Revolution era began in the late 18th and early 19th century first, it started in Britain then spread to other nations. It was an revolutionary change in the sense that it led to an entirely new method of how work was done. There were now; several factories with complex machines manufacturing all kinds of products under what is called mass production; large industrial cities with new jobs that caused people to move in large numbers looking for employment; the transportation system was revolutionized through use of steam-powered machines (fueled by coal) giving rise to trains, steam ships and also the invention of cars. Also, family needs was no longer based on production but rather on unity of consumption.
This was a time of growth in wealth where the government saw a rise in taxes, technology and imperialism. There were advances in agricultural methods that created effective systems that produced an increased supply of food and raw materials on a large scale. This led to changes in industrial organization due to new machine technology that caused goods to be mass produced unlike the old ways (manual labor). This created a large increase in profits, and an increase in commerce both foreign and domestic. Goods that had been made traditionally made by manual labor was now done by complex machines in the factory. As a result of this, there were drastic improvement in productivity since work was done in a more effective and efficient way in the manufacturing process. This improved method of production (called mass production) provided a wider range of products to be available to the population at much cheaper prices.
As factories and business enterprises grew in large numbers in a given location, this led to the rise and growth of cities as people moved from the rural areas into urban areas in search of jobs. The Industrial Revolution created an industrial society where the living conditions were much better than that of living in the rural society. There was an increase in the availability of food, clothing and shelter, health care, educational opportunities and better wages. The mass production of productions caused prices to drop, making products once only available to the rich to be now affordable to the poor. Thus, living in the cities provided both political and economic freedom.
However, in spite of the technological and socioeconomic advancement during this era through mechanization of agriculture, factories and transportation system, it was during this Industrial Revolution of urbanization, and industrialization that also gave rise to dreadful sanitary and public health conditions in which people had to live and work. The explosion in urban growth created unforeseen sanitary and public health problems that was as a result of overcrowded cites by large number of people moving from the rural areas. This dense population of people living in cities cause the widespread of diseases such as Tuberculosis (TB) and Cholera thus, creating epidemics especially among the poorer class.
As the number of factories grew with the thousands of people coming in from the rural areas seeking better paying jobs, shelters and rooms became overcrowded where a room would be rented to whole family. Houses were overcrowded and If there were no rooms to be rented, then people would bunch up in lodging houses. Workplaces were overcrowded and in bad sanitary conditions (women and young children were also employed and were working in these conditions) where there were no proper running water to bathe regularly. The cities didn’t have a proper planned sewage and garbage collecting system. The cities were also covered by layer of dirty black smoke (from burning coal that was used to heat water so as to create steam to run the machines) often covered the streets. The factories chimneys would continually belched out these dark, dirty and poisonous smoke into the atmosphere, polluting it. This blocked out most of the Sun’s light giving the city a bleak and gloomy look. Due to this rapid urbanization that led to overcrowd cities it caused a health crisis. Water pollution carried water borne disease, Cholera manifested and spread over the population killing thousands. No one knew exactly what caused this disease until about 1855 when John Snow, a London physician, traced a part of the cholera epidemic to a contaminated water pump on Broad Street.
Broadwick found that by removing the pump, it dramatically reduced the spread (and incidences) of Cholera in the area. This provided additional proof at the time that there was a relationship between a water pump (contaminated water) and the victims of the disease. This added weight to the debate that Government had to be involved in maintaining health of the population. Louis Pasteur in 1864, also proved that germs exist and published in 1878 that most infectious diseases are caused by germs, known as the "germ theory of disease". This further supported the importance of why water has to be kept clean at all times.
In spite of the health crisis, many positive effects on the lives of the British and other nation aroused to the betterment of the population. As concerns grew about the health crisis, reformers began the slow process of remedying the social health problems where public and factory reforms were made. The Public Health Act of 1848 was passed based on the outcome of Chadwick's Sanitary report. The government introduced improvements in sanitary and social conditions to control and remedy the situation such as: proper sewer, install gas lighting, regular garbage collection, created parks, install and build houses and factories with proper drains and water supplies.
Public health services created by the government were financed by taxation, with no charge to the user of such services. There was an increase in public health department and government hired public health inspectors to reinforce these laws. Through the public health many premature death from epidemics diseases such as cholera, plague and many other infectious diseases were prevented. Life expectancy was now greatly improved and this enhanced the quality of life. Public health services were provided by a team of specialists trained in sanitary engineering, environmental, medicine, nursing, social and behavioral sciences, administration, health education, just to name a few. This legacy is passed on to this present day generation to promote and preserve good health therefore protecting society from the clutches of epidemic diseases thus, improving our quality of life.