Poster exhibit looks at last 100 years of public health care in Ontario

What was public health care like in Ontario a century ago? How has it grown and changed over the years? That is the subject of the poster exhibit, Building on the Past: Milestones from the History of Public Health in Ontario, on now until May 20 at York’s Steacie Science & Engineering Library.

Building on the Past: Milestones from the History of Public Health in Ontario tells the story of health care in text and illustrations from the early beginnings of health-care workers, government, policy-makers and scientists.

The exhibit starts with the work of Dr. Charles Hastings, Toronto’s medical officer of health from 1910 to 1929, who after losing a daughter to typhoid from contaminated milk crusaded to make Toronto the first city in Canada to pasteurize milk. He introduced many public health initiatives that have been taken for granted, including a safe water supply, the public health nursing system, medical and dental inspection in public schools, neighbourhood baby clinics, childhood immunizations and health inspections for restaurants.

The exhibit also looks at early health education, the fight against the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera and small pox, and the role of the first public health nurses who crossed the province and spent their time on the road bringing health care to remote communities which frequently did not have a doctor.

Developed to mark the creation of the Ontario Agency for Health Protection & Promotion (OAHPP) in 2008, the poster exhibit details how pioneering health professionals and scientists built the foundation for health-care knowledge that the following generations of academics and researchers have since relied on and further built upon.

The OAHPP started after the SARS outbreak in Ontario when it became evident that the province would benefit from having a centre for specialized research and knowledge in public health. Today, the OAHPP is a player in the public health arena, bringing together academic, clinical and government experts to create a centre of public health excellence in the province.

The launch at the Steacie library last week of PubMed Central (PMC) Canada (see YFile, May 5), a new Canadian partner in an international network providing free or open access to health research, is another step in the journey of accumulating and disseminating scientific and health research and knowledge, and making it available for the public good.

The exhibit provides an opportunity to look back at where health care began and to look forward to the future.