The Romans developed the first ever system of public health. They understood that dirty conditions made people ill, and in order to ensure that their empire thrived their soldiers and merchants had to be healthy. So they provided many facilities to promote public health within societies. However, the key features of public health were: hygiene, treating illness and personal health.
The Romans were great builders and to promote hygiene they had built aqueducts, sewers, and bath houses. Aqueducts brought millions of gallons of water everyday into the city’s through lead pipes which was then used for drinking, washing clothes and bathing. The water brought in was clean and was taken to the bath house where it was used to fill a huge bath where people could go in and bathe for a small price. This ensured people would try to keep themselves clean. They had also built public latrines so that all the waste was taken into sewers and not the streets where people had a greater chance of getting a disease. All the waste went into sewers which was then flushed with water from the bath house and other places where there water was not clean anymore.
The sewers lead to rivers or the sea. The Romans believed that staying fit and healthy prevented you from getting a disease. Usually within bath houses there was a gymnasia where people could go and exercise. The Roman writer Celsus advised exercises before a meal and Galen prescribed gym exercises and deep breathing as a way to health. To treat illnesses the Romans had built hospitals and trained physicians. The first hospitals were built to treat soldiers. People were often treated with what knowledge Hippocrates had passed on, especially the theory of the four humours. Or others were amputated to stop the spread of infection.
However, the public health system was not perfect. There were often defects with their methods for example, water from the bath houses was changed only once a week, which instead of helping promote hygiene, was the cause of many people with diseases. Moreover, the sewers were not reliable for disposing waste. When open sewers close to the ground were not emptied, people who went near to them often became ill.
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