Child mortality in Spalding and district in 1915

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Local child mortality is low in 2016 – recorded as three in 2014-15 in public health figures for South Holland.

However, a hundred years ago the figures were shocking and described in these newspapers in 1916 as “one of the most serious problems facing us at the present moment”.

The previous year there had been over 100 deaths of children under one. Of those, 21 were due to “diarrhoeal” diseases, 39 to wasting diseases, and 20 to convulsions, “which are usually associated with improper feeding”.

At a meeting of the County Health Committee Medical Officer of Health Dr A Tuxford said: “There can be little doubt that the great majority of these deaths were preventable.

“In addition, 31 deaths were due to bronchitis and pneumonia, and it is an open question to what extent many of these deaths were due to improper clothing or to the debilitating effects of foul air in the homes.”

Those at the meeting had agreed to adopt a health visiting scheme to reduce the “heavy infantile mortality rate”.

They heard the duties of health visitors would be to visit the homes of recently born infants and to advise the mother about feeding, rearing, clothing and general hygiene.

The health visitors would also note “any adverse conditions in the house” and bring them to the attention of the sanitary authorities to be put right.

The report said: “If suitable women were appointed, the work would not be done in an inquisitorial spirit, but with a minimum of friction.”

There was discussion about combining health visiting and school nursing services, so that the same nurse would have care of the same children throughout their school lives.