International Tuberculosis Day was on March 24. It was a day to raise awareness of the devastating impact of the disease on health, society and economy. This blog looks at the campaign to eradicate tuberculosis in Wales by the Welsh National Memorial Association of King Edward VII, WNMA.
Tuberculosis (TB) was a major problem in Wales in 1900. In 1910, seven of the fifteen worst affected counties in Wales and England were in Wales and the five counties with the highest mortality rates were also in Wales. A plan was needed to deal with the disease and with the vision of one man, David Davies, MP (1880-1944) the WNMA began.
On 30 September 1910, in a meeting in Shrewsbury, a decision was made to commemorate King Edward VII by creating a campaign to eradicate TB in Wales and Monmouthshire. Some years earlier, King Edward VII referred to the need to prevent TB: ‘If preventable, why not prevented?’ The sum of £300,000 was needed – half this amount was donated by David Davies. He became the first president of the WNMA, which was incorporated on 17 May 1912. The Campaign had four main aims:
- Funding pharmacies across Wales
- Providing residential establishments including sanatoria at Sully Hospital, Cardiff and Craig-y-Nos in Breconshire
- Creating an educational department to publish educational material and host anti-tuberculosis lectures.
- Funding a research department at the Welsh National School of Medicine, including the David Davies Tuberculosis Chair.
A Newtown office was established and an advisory committee of 6 medical experts were appointed to work in education, disease detection, treatment, post treatment, and research. David Lloyd George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, provided funding for sanatoria for the whole population through the 1911 National Insurance Act. By the Public Health Act (Tuberculosis) in 1921, all Welsh local authorities had transferred funding to the WNMA. Now, one national body existed with overall responsibility for the treatment and management of tuberculosis in Wales.
The educational campaign concentrated on training individuals to avoid TB. Between October 1911 and March 1913, 80 touring exhibitions took place. The Campaign’s caravan, bought to facilitate traveling to rural Welsh schools, made it possible to educate and lecture 11,500 children on ‘The Laws of Health and the Prevention of Tuberculosis’. Topics included: sleep, fresh air at night, home lighting, healthy food, tooth hygiene, clothing, body and hair hygiene, and the link between milk and saliva and the spread of TB.
The Campaign built two new hospitals and bought several hospitals and country mansions (such as Craig-y-Nos, Swansea). Over the next twenty years a network of pharmacies and hospitals had been created:
- 5 Sanitoria (Menai Bridge, Denbigh, Talgarth, Llanybydder and Llandrindod Wells)
- 12 Hospitals (total 1,600 beds)
- 14 Pharmacies
- 85 Visiting Stations
- 22 X-ray Stations.
In early 1930s there were 11,000 new cases a year. Nurses and health visitors visited 40,000 homes annually. The King Edward VII National Memorial Association had become one of the most comprehensive plans to deal with tuberculosis. The results of the campaign were evident at an early stage with steady reductions in mortality rates from tuberculosis. Author Glynne R. Jones says:
‘There are few families in Wales without reason for gratitude to the WNMA, which had grown to be the foremost anti-tuberculosis organisation in the British Empire, if not the world – a fitting memorial to a king, which has ensured the WNMA a place of honour in Welsh History.’
NLW holds a complete collection of WNMA annual reports and minute books which form an important part of the Medical Printed Collection. The ‘Medicine and Health in Wales before the NHS’ project will digitise these collections and they will be displayed online later this year.
For further information, contact Branwen Rhys.
Twitter @NLWPrintandMore #MedHistWales
This post is also available in: Welsh