The Greater War, Health Department's Campaign for National Fitness, The Menace of Venereal Disease

10 April 1945 The Tumut and Adelong Times 

In short addresses at the commencement of the screenings of the Health Department's moving pictures at Tumut, Adelong and Batlow on 19th, 20th and 22nd ult., the publicity officer (Mr. A. G. White), who represented the Department, gave some facts and figures which provided food for serious reflection.

It was shown clearly that the health of the people is not as good as it should be in "Sunny Australia".  

Disease is the true 'Fifth Columnist' and unless we pay more attention to our health, especially the control of tuberculosis, V.D. and other diseases, we may win the war only to lose the peace.

Disease such as these flourish through ignorance, prejudice and indifference. 

Knowledge is our most potent weapon in the fight against disease. 

Mr. White paid a tribute to the Council for its co-operation, especially the Shire President, the Shire Clerk and the Health Inspector; and pointed out that statistics relating to public health suggest the necessity for arousing the public to the urgent need for greater co-operation with the health authorities in the provision of good health. 

For example: is it satisfactory, asked the speaker, that 11,000 or our fellow citizens are in mental hospitals costing over 600,000 annually and that about 180,000 people should require hospital treatment each year at a further cost of about 1,500,000 annually; and that 40,000 persons in N.S.W. should be totally incapacitated by sickness and have to be supported by invalid pensions, which cost the taxpayer between 1 and 2 million pounds a year?

This means an annual outlay of not less than four million pounds on hospitals and invalid pensions alone, and the bill is constantly growing. 

The total loss due to ill-health and the expenditure involved in the treatment of sickness, including hospitalisation, medical and nursing services, and others of a similar nature, together with the loss to industry through illness, etc., amount to a colossal sum, estimated at not less than 34 million pounds annually in New South Wales - equal to about 85 million for the whole of Australia. 

Necessarily, adequate provision has to be made for the care of the sick. No one would question that.

But the Health Department's aim is to make people health-conscious and thus prevent as much as possible of this sickness, which is such a drain on the personal and national income.

And it is unquestionable that a great deal of it could be prevented. 

The films shown included "Rat Destruction", "Defeat Diphtheria", "Good bye, Mr. Germ" (T.B.), "Man Versus Microbe"; "Subject For Discussion" (V.D.); "The Dengue Fever Mosquito"; "Behind The Smile" (color film); and  the wonder documentary film, "World of Plenty". 

The attendances were: Tumut 600, Batlow 350, Adelong 300. 

At a special session for school children the following films were also shown: "On Guard"; "The Road To Health And Happiness"; "Goodbye, Mr. Germ"; "Louis Pasteur" and "Posture". 

Attendances at these sessions were; Tumut 300, Batlow 250, Adelong 250. 

Man's War Against Disease 

In his opening remarks Mr. White said that the greatest war in history is man's war against disease, as shown by the following extract:-

"The last Great European War, with its appalling slaughter, bulks large in the history of the world.

It has created a tremendous impression on mankind.

Yet the Great War and all other wars are mere affrays compared with that greater war which mankind has been fighting for ages. 

The greater war is the battle between germs and men.

It is never-ending. It goes on day and night.

And the people who have been slain by the germs, innocent men, women and children, total thousands of millions." 

Our first talk is to make people value good health and to teach them how to conserve and promote this great asset. 

The maintenance of good health is not an accident! it is a habit. It is the result of Practising the Rules of Good Health.

The difficulty is they are so simple. If we could only give people "something out of a bottle" as a panacea for all their ills how readily they would take it, no matter what the cost. 

But people are prone to lose their enthusiasm when we tell them that good health depends upon such things as:-

(1) A Good Diet, particularly the inclusion of plenty of vegetables, fruit and milk, especially in childhood, as shown in the color film "Behind the Smile".

For those who are older the best advice is to eat in moderation. Don't dig your grave with your knife and fork. 

(2) Sufficient Exercise: One of the drawbacks of modem life is that such a large proportion of the people are engaged in sedentary occupations. 

Such persons seldom, if ever, get sufficient exercise to be well. For such, a few minutes' exercise regularly each day and a brisk walk would do much to conserve their health.   

(3) Personal Hygiene: Personal cleanliness is a great aid to health.  

Soap and water are cheap - use them freely.

Such a simple thing as washing   the hands before meals would help to prevent the spread of infectious disease. 

(4) Care Of The Teeth: The film "Behind The Smile" also shows that not only good looks but also good health depend in no small degree upon good teeth.

And good teeth depend mainly on a diet, good mouth care and regular visits to your dentist, which would reduce sickness and large bills at the same time. 

(5) Fresh Air And Sunshine; There should be no scarcity of these items in the good health menu of Australians.

But how many homes are kept well ventilated both by day and by night?

And how many of us get sufficient exercise in the open air and sunshine?

Is it because these things cost us nothing that we are so neglectful of them? 

(6) Adequate Sleep: This is another necessity, particularly in childhood.

"Early to bed, early to rise" may make us "wealthy or wise", but it will certainly help to make us healthy, and the others may follow. 

Self Help In Health 

The preservation of good health is therefore largely a matter of giving Nature a chance.

Why not try it for six months? asked Mr. White. 

After all, these things are the personal responsibility of each individual. 

The Health Department and the local Council cannot do much more than provide a healthy environment and ensure pure food and water supplies until they have the co-operation of the people.

Then we can try to teach the public how to conserve their health, as we are seeking to do by showing these health pictures and giving these health talks. 

But the results will depend upon how each person pays attention to these health rules.

In other words, "Self Help in Health." 

Diphtheria Immunization 

Take diphtheria immunization as an example of preventive medicine:

Most people are now aware of the value of this simple, harmless and effective method of preventing diphtheria, and over 400,000 children have now been protected in New South Wales.

But thousands of parents are still apathetic, and in the past ten years there have been nearly 50,000 cases and close on 2,000 deaths.

Hospital treatment of these cases has cost at least 250,000 - all in respect of a disease which, as shown in the film, is readily preventable.

Is that a satisfactory public response to our efforts to stamp out this strangling terror?

Venereal Disease

Venereal disease is another grave national menace, causing the loss of many valuable lives each year in New South Wales; yet this disease is preventable and, in the early stages, is curable. 

The film on V.D. is from England and gives facts and figures relating to that country.

It presents in a striking manner the great medical discoveries which have made possible the conquest of syphilis.

They show how the disease is spread, the symptoms, methods of taking blood tests and treatment by means of injections. 

They show that untreated syphilis is a terrible danger and is a common cause of heart disease, strokes, paralysis, insanity, blindness, miscarriages, still births, invalidism and death.

The downward path is usually drunkenness, promiscuity, infection, disease and death, as strikingly shown in one of our new Health Week posters. 

The only certain protection from the disease, as shown in the Health Department V.D. chart, is chastity.

That may sound a somewhat old-fashioned remedy, but it is the truth nevertheless. 

The fact must be faced that V.D. is almost always contracted through sexual contact with a diseased person. It is true, of course, that some children are born with syphilis, and very rarely it may be contracted by kissing a person with a syphilitic sore on the lips.

Gonorrhoea may sometimes be caught by the use of a damp towel soiled with pus by an infected person using it just previously. 

But these cases are extremely rare, and it is almost always contracted in the other way.

In that respect the film is not strictly accurate, as it shows syphilis being spread by kissing, the use of the common drinking cup, two persons smoking the same cigarette, etc.

As already stated, a mouth infection may be conveyed in this manner, but it is most uncommon and can be almost disregarded as a source of infection. 

Disquieting facts about the disease in New South Wales are:-

(1) As seems inevitable in wartime, a marked increase in promiscuity and consequently in the spread of the disease;

(2) A large increase in notifications of girls from 16 to 20 (over 50 per cent.);    

(3) That less than one-fifth of the sources of infection can be traced; and 

(4) Sixty per cent, of those contacted are found to be diseased and not under treatment. 

For those who are so foolish as to expose themselves to the danger of infection, skilled prophylactic treatment immediately after exposure will usually prevent the disease, and for those who have it or may contact it medical science holds out excellent prospects of permanent cure if the treatment is begun early enough and carried out faithfully and persistently. 

The film very rightly allocates a routine blood test of all expectant mothers and suggests the value of a blood test as part of a health examination before marriage.

The former would permit of the treatment of the mother and thus prevent that greatest of all tragedies - the birth of syphilitic children.

The latter would also help to prevent the, spread of infection to an innocent partner. 


Tuberculosis - another disease which is curable if diagnosed soon enough, is causing over 1,000 deaths annually in New South Wales, most of them among people in the prime of life.

What this disease costs the nation in money, in invalidity, in suffering, no one knows.

The films show clearly that this is a disease of poverty, bad housing and under-nourishment.

They show that all young persons belonging to T.B. families should be X-rayed annually between 15 and 25 years.

This would disclose whether their lungs are diseased before there are any symptoms and afford them the best chance of complete recovery by rest, good food and appropriate treatment in a sanatorium. 

Even the simple health rules given earlier, if heeded and practised, would greatly reduce the incidence of this and other diseases.

Success Of Baby Health Centres 

The success of the Baby Health Centres is something of which the Department is naturally proud, and in this connexion the speaker paid a warm tribute to the work of the C.W.A. in providing and maintaining premises and equipment for a large number of Baby Health Centres throughout the State. 

The local Centre is undoubtedly proving a boon to mothers and all should avail themselves of the value of sound mothercraft in rearing healthy babies. 

The Department now conducts 240 of these centres and they undoubtedly represent the most effective example of preventive medicine yet attempted in Australia.

Last year the total attendances for the first time exceeded a million (1,051,393), while 94,000 individual mothers are taking their babies to the Centres for advice.

And the result? As the picture shows, the infant death rate has been halved in 20 years. 

The gastro-enteritis wards at the Chilren's Hospital which, less than ten years ago, used to handle up to 500 cases or more of this disease in infants per annum, with up to 150 deaths, have been practically closed up for the past few years. 

Similarly, the Lady Edeline Hospital for sick babies established at Vaucluse 20 years ago by the Government was finally closed several years ago and converted into a "Tresaillian" Mothercraft Home.

Here, instead of sick babies, the Baby Health Centre Sisters now receive their special training in mothercraft, and mothers are taught how to overcome difficulties in breast-feeding their babies.

What a transformation! 

In conclusion, on behalf of the Department, the speaker paid a tribute to the Council, the Town Clerk, the Health Inspector, the Press, theatre proprietors, the schools, and all who had generously co-operated in making the screenings a success.