“Civics and Health” by Jean Ashcraft, from the Friday, June 16, 1916 issue of The Monroe Journal—“The Union County Paper—Everybody Read It”
Education along the lines of hygiene is the basis for the crusade against the unsanitary conditions of the community today. Dr. Emerson, the department of health of New York City, says: “Education is more powerful than the police force.” And education, like charity, begins at home.
Today the teaching of hygiene is compulsory and it is the only study in the grammar school curriculum for the neglect of which a teacher may be removed from office and fined. It is the subject most vital to the child, the home, to industry, to social welfare, and to education itself.
Because the problems of health have to do principally with environment—home, street, school, business—we see the importance of relating hygiene instruction to industry and government, and to preach health from the standpoint of national efficiency.
We find, however, there’s many a slip ‘twixt the making of laws, or setting of standards, and their enforcement. “Failure to enforce health laws is a more serious menace to health than drunkenness or tobacco cancer.”
Instinct was the first health officer and made the first health laws—by warning man, through the senses, against offensive odors and sights. Today we have organized board of health and the law makers of our land pass laws regarding health, food, the standards of living and the control of menaces.
A menace in this sense is anything interfering with health. The number of things listed as nuisances by the day reach into the hundreds. Among the most common are: (1) garbage and sewerage disposal; (2) drainage; (3) polluted water supply; (4) flies, mosquitoes, etc.
In general then, “use your own property so that you will not injure another in the use of his property.”
In the discussion of “preparedness” now raging throughout the country, only one side of the problem is being considered, and that, battleships, submarines, aeorplanes, guns, munitions, etc. No attention is being paid to the human machines. The war in Europe has shown that the men who use the implements of war are as important as the implements themselves. To get the great amount of strength and endurance needed, their bodies and their environment must be looked after. This human preparedness is as important in time of peace as in war.
The greatest step in health is raising the standards of living. Hygenic living and surroundings are the greatest enemies of disease and do more toward raising the vitality of a person than anything.
The new civic spirit is still in its youth, having originated in the last decade of the last century. Formerly all improvements came through individuals and the churches. So this new conception of public responsibility is comparatively new. Under this administration marvelous developments have taken place—the establishing of free libraries, health regulations, factory legislation, interstate commerce provisions, and the extension of municipal functions. Such as street paving, cleaning, lighting, water supply, sewerage disposal, parks, playgrounds and drives, and the uplift and beautifying of the town in all possible lines.
Another phase of city making is the establishment of parks, playgrounds and boulevards. They are organic parts of the city, and Charles Zueblin of Chicago refers to the m as “the respiratory system” of the city.
The lack in our cities of architecture having unity of purpose and harmony of design is said to be “due to the desire for immediate percuniary results. The dominance of commercial motives and the assertiveness of powerful individuals lacking artistic, education, and they have succeeded in making of the typical American city a miscellany of dingy warehouses, shops, tenements, and tasteless mansions. There is not only no unity, but a pronounced restlessness.”
The use of color is another important phase. The possibilities of nature are well illustrated in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, where sand dunes that seemed helpless have been transformed into one of the most beautiful parks in America.
John Burroughs says, “nature in all things to all men. If we will enslave her, she will be our servant, though if we abuse her she may desert and starve us.”