3 JANUARY 1931, Page 26

Child Hygiene

and full of significantly tabulated facts. Moreover, the enthusiasm of our Chief Medical Officer adds to the popu- larity, and possibly to the effectiveness, of these reports ; but those exceptional readers, who mistrust mere uplift, Babbitism, however honest its motive, will be inclined to draw from the facts their own conclusions rather than swallow unreflectingly those which the author presents.

A few of these conclusions, naturally enough, have been seized upon by our newspapers as good and satisfying to the consciences of, their readers. For example, we are told, as many a time before, that : " We are maintaining our popula- tion with the less physically fit," the implication being that the various social and sanitary reforms of the past fifty years, by affording to the children of the poor opportunities and environmental circumstances reniotely approximating" to those hitherto accessible to the rich alone, have been dyrs: hygienic in their Altimate effect. Surely, this is unsound theorizing ; and there would seem small occasion for the appeal to benevolence (regardless of hygienic prudence) which Sir George makes to us. We are told also that " for many years the birth-rate has been declining more rapidly among the better physical stocks of the population than among the less physically fit " ; from which Sir George Newman draws the usual moral that " the maintenance of the population in this way and from its present sources is one of the factors which is tending to modify the physical and mental character of the people." One looks for evidence of this popular contention ; but it is not easy to find.

These, however, are but the excusable moralizings of an enthusiastic schemer, as we know our Chief Medical Officer to be. The facts are here the things that matter. Every year over half a million children leave our public elementary schools. When we learn that, during the course of their school life,. about 50,000 of these children have been found to suffer from visual defects ; 36,000 from enlarged tonsils and adenoids ; and 2,500 from defects of hearing—to say nothing of dental disorder, which seems to be almost universal, the possibilities of a really thorough school medical service are obvious.

A large part of the medical profession is violently hostile to any extension of clinics and treatment centres, staffed by public salaried medical officers ; but it is difficult to see how effective medical and surgical treatment of the defects dis- covered in our population during the therapeutically favourable years of childhood can otherwise be afforded. The laxity and ignorance of many parents, and, among the poor, actual financial difficulty, lead, as everyone knows, to a very general hesitation in taking children to private doctors for treatment. Moreover, much of the treatment needed calls for apparatus and specialist skill which the general practitioner, cannot be expected to have at his disposal.

Very great stress is laid in this report on the need for the systematic teaching of hygiene in our elementary and secondary schools. Many pages are devoted to exhortations to teachers and to education authorities to give the children regular lessons on this subject ; but it is more than doubtful if sound hygienic principle or practice can, any more than that of virtue, be inculcated by ever so servile a following of the official " Handbook of Suggestions." We get a feeling of having unconsciously wandered into the advertisement pages when we are given to understand that only by lessons in school hygiene are we likely to produce " a strong and Well developed body and unimpaired senses, the obedient servant of the will, and ari intelligent, thinking, good nature, disciplined to action and willing to co-operate."

And where are we going to find the teacher who will give class lessons in hygiene to forty or fifty working-class children so as to " bring before them the mystery of life and death, the experience of the nations, the higher and nobler purposes of life, and the innate possibilities of the human spirit" ? It would matter little what title was given to any subject taught by such a teacher.

These cavillings must mit be allowed. to divert anyone interested from buying and carefully-studying a really valuable