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MEDICC Rev. 2019 Apr-Jul;21(2-3):69-74.

Cuban Public Health History: The 19th Century Board of Health in the City of Holguín.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION In 19th century colonial Cuba, Boards of Health (Juntas de Sanidad) were created to administer public health, in tandem with and later replacing the older Royal Protomedicato Court (Real Tribunal de Protomedicato). Development of the Board of Health in the northeastern city of Holguín reflected local historical processes, as well as class relations and social issues characteristic of this period. Among the highlights of the Board's activities were epidemic control during cholera and smallpox outbreaks, monitoring the city's sanitary conditions, and support for charitable work. Studying the history of such epidemiological surveillance activities may benefit design and implementation of related current research and prevention/control campaigns. OBJECTIVE Describe the development of the 19th century Board of Health in the city of Holguín. EVIDENCE ACQUISITION The research was conducted through a critical analysis of primary sources contained in the Historical Archives of (today's) Holguín Province, specifically relevant documents from the regional and city government (Fondo Tenencia de Gobierno y Ayuntamiento) and town council (Cabildo). Cuban and international scientific publications were also consulted. DEVELOPMENT The Board of Health was the main institution conducting health and hygiene control and charitable activities in the city of Holguín during the 19th century. It was created mainly to take preventive measures against diseases affecting the population, an effort it undertook with support from the Urban Health Police. Its efforts to confront smallpox and cholera epidemics greatly helped to reduce the toll of these diseases on the population, albeit not sufficiently to prevent their reccurrence. Beginning in the 1870s, weakened government support eroded the Board's position, and health-related measures were implemented mainly by the Board of Charity, which focused on matters concerning the city's Civil Hospital. CONCLUSIONS Although established in 1820, Holguín's Board of Health carried out preventive actions most actively from 1850 to 1865, with support from the Urban Health Police. Its gradual disappearance from the health policy arena beginning in the 1870s reflects its failure as an institution, in large part due to weak government support. KEYWORDS Board of Health, prevention, epidemics, Cuba.

PMID:
31401639
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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