Public Health Practice in Australia: The Organised Effort

By Vivian Lin; James Smith et al. | Go to book overview

3

Health in Australia today:
Health status, health care system and the
place of public health

Challenge

You have been celebrating your great-grandmother's ninetieth birthday with family members of all ages. She brings out her photo album and reminisces about how hard life was for her family. One of her brothers died before she was born during the 1919 global influenza epidemic. Her oldest brother lost his factory job during the Depression and died of tuberculosis because he could not afford any medical care. His wife and three children then returned home to live with her parents and two youngest sisters. During the first ten years of her life, your great-grandmother's family lived in a two-bedroom house with an enclosed veranda. The toilet was down the back of the yard, and water was collected from a well. All the children walked several kilometres to and from school.

You are then surprised to learn that she was married at sixteen and actually gave birth to eight children, because your grandmother has only talked about her five aunts and uncles. One female infant died from pneumonia before her first birthday, while a boy of six died in an accident on the family farm. The third child was stillborn.

When your grandmother married after World War II, all of her four children survived childhood. But one of her brothers died in an industrial accident at an underground coalmine in New South Wales, while the other died ten years later of lung cancer. Your mother was born in 1958 and so is a member of the so-called 'baby boomers' generation—babies born in the period after the end of World War II.

-37-

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