Health Inspection in the Public Schools

In recent years the serums have all but eliminated the more serious contagious diseases. Years ago people were well aware of the ravages of scarlet fever and diphtheria. They realized they were contagious but did not observe very strict quarantine. Polio was rare until the early 1900’s and not much was known about the nature of the disease.

The minor contagious diseases (measles, mumps or chicken pox) were more or less taken for granted and were not given much attention. If a child was able to be out of bed he or she was sent to school, [unless] broken out with any rash or in advanced stages of whooping cough. Not all parents were careless about this but many were. Scabies and pediculi[1] were two other common afflictions. The teacher of course sent the children home when any of these ailments were discovered but many parents did not appreciate that.

The story is told of a family living at Thornton’s Corners around a hundred years ago, which shows the attitude of people in those days. The children were sent home because of vermin in their hair and were given orders by the teacher that their heads were to be cleaned. The irate mother promptly sent them back with the word that she was not going to do anything about their condition “that it was only healthy children that were lousy”!

At the turn of the century Dr. D.S. Hoig[2], a physician in town here, became convinced that there should be health inspection in the schools. It is largely due to his efforts that the nursing and dental inspection system in the schools has been established. He thought that classes should be started for backward children; records should be kept of weight and general health so that corrective measures could be taken if necessary. His campaign for such reforms lasted for many years and at times he was nearly alone in the province with his ideas on those matters. Such things in those days were considered fads and were laughed at. Now it all goes along with the modern school system.

It was not until 1914 that the Board of Education with some doubts established a nursing staff. In 1916 the dental inspection system was instituted.

[1] Lice

[2] David Scott Hoig. 1853 – 1939. Hoig was a practicing doctor for 53 years; he held the title of longest active practising doctor in town. During his lifetime, Hoig served as the Dead of the Ontario County Medical Profession, assisted in the founding of the Oshawa general Hospital, served on the Board of Education for 20 years and the Library Board for 20 years.


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