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'The child is father of the man.' The relationship between child health and adult mortality in the 19th and 20th centuries

Harris, Bernard (2001) 'The child is father of the man.' The relationship between child health and adult mortality in the 19th and 20th centuries. International Journal of Epidemiology, 30 (4). pp. 688-696. ISSN 0300-5771

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Abstract

In the early years of the twentieth century, enormous concern was focused on the relationship between the health of the child and the welfare of the nation. In 1902, Leslie Mackenzie and Matthew Hay informed the Royal Commission on Physical Training (Scotland) that large numbers of children in Aberdeen and Edinburgh were suffering from serious medical conditions which could pose a threat to them in later life, and in 1904 the Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration devoted more than one-third of its report to conditions affecting the ‘juvenile population’.1 In 1905 Leslie Mackenzie told the Royal Society of Edinburgh that the most important single lesson to emerge from the enquiries was the need to make the individual citizen fit for the environment around them. ‘One truth we have already realised—if we would fit the man for his environment, we must begin with the child. “The child is father of the man.”’2