Sanitation: voted most important medical advance since 1840
Updated - Monday 29 January 2007
Sanitation was voted the most important medical milestone since 1840 in an online poll conducted by the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Improved sewage disposal and clean water supply systems, which have reduced diseases such as cholera, was the favourite of 11,341 people worldwide who voted in the poll. Getting 15.6% of the votes, sanitation surpassed other medical achievements such as antibiotics (14.5%), anaesthesia (13.9%) and vaccines (11.8%). Another water-related milestone, oral rehydration therapy, got 2.7% of the votes.
Out of 70 medical milestones submitted by BMJ readers, a panel of editors and advisers selected 15. Champions of the 15 milestones were invited to write on each one.
Sanitation was championed by Prof. Johan Mackenbach, of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam . "The general lesson which still holds is that passive protection against health hazards is often the best way to improve population health", he said. Sanitation has “probably saved the most lives of all medical interventions that have ever been developed”, Mackenbach told a Dutch newspaper. However, Mackenbach added: "Inadequate sanitation is still a major problem in the developing world”.
. Mackenbach, J.P. (2007). Sanitation : pragmatism works. British Medical Journal, vol. 334, no. 7583. Suppl. doi:10.1136/bmj.39044.508646.94
Related news: United Nations: 2008 declared International Year of Sanitation, Source Weekly, 15 Dec 2006
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