Looking Back

By Leo Billington

“Nostalgia as they say, just ain’t what it used to be.”

Several years back, while researching the meaning and impact of nostalgia, Dr Erica Hepper, a psychology lecturer at the University of Surrey, said that nostalgia is a key component in our futures, often acting as a ‘psychological boost’ to make us more motivated.

Let’s go back in years, but not all that long ago.

In 1970 the Victorian state government became the first in the western world to introduce legislation for compulsory wearing of seat belts. Within 14 months the other Australian states followed.  Anti-sentiment was immediately aroused - they're not very comfortable, and sometimes you can't manoeuvre the way you want to, and most of the time traffic on local streets is bumper-to-bumper anyway. 

Others opined - seat belts represent one of two things -- either a dangerous intrusion by government into private habits or a sensible way of getting people to take a precaution they might not take voluntarily. "This is not supposed to be Russia where the government tells you what to do and when to do it." Nonusers complained that seat belts are uncomfortable or could trap them inside the car if an accident occurred. Another excuse from sometime-users was that they saw no need to wear the belt when driving on short excursions in their neighbourhoods.

Seat belts had been around, if infrequently used, since the 19th century. Many American cars had lap belts in the 1930’s, but few people used them. These early lap belt models kept passengers from flying out of the car but did nothing to protect their heads or torsos.

Let’s go back further.

In 1956, the introduction of polio vaccine was the beginning of the end of an epidemic in Australia. From 1944 to 1954 polio was responsible for more than 1000 deaths in Australia. In America in the 1950s, polio killed or paralysed tens of thousands of people. Polio was known in Australia by the late 1800’s.

Then smallpox arrived. Reputable research established that known since ancient times, smallpox is thought to have killed about 300 million people in the 20th century alone. By the early 19th century smallpox vaccination was being undertaken in some Australian populations. Victoria introduced a Compulsory Vaccination Act in 1854, with free vaccination available to children born from 1850 onwards. Smallpox still broke out in in limited clusters, including Melbourne in 1857 (16 cases), Victoria in 1868-69 (43 cases) and Melbourne again in 1881-85 (56 cases), but Victoria's approach to vaccination saw the threat of smallpox largely mitigated.  

Note the words - a Compulsory Vaccination Act. Lives were saved.

On October 19, 2010, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that 21,171 Australians have HIV, with 1,050 new cases diagnosed in 2009. Subsequently, the Grim Reaper AIDS advertisement from years back in 1987 only ran for 12 days on national television, but it remains the standard by which other health messages are judged. And is still mentioned as the standard in mass healthcare messaging.

Recall the false claims perpetrated by some about Gardasil.

There are over 800 new cases of cervical cancer and around 250 deaths every year in Australia. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV, and Gardasil ® 9 has been shown to prevent infection with the two strains of HPV associated with 70% of cervical cancers

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) a viral respiratory disease caused by a SARS-associated coronavirus, was first identified at the end of February 2003 during an outbreak that emerged in China and spread to four other countries. The World Health Organisation co-ordinated the international investigation with the assistance of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and worked closely with health authorities in affected countries to provide epidemiological, clinical and logistical support and to bring the outbreak under control.

Hullo snuggle-pie
Late in 1918, May Gibbs, best known for her book ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’
informed readers how important it was to wear face masks during the
Spanish Flu epidemic.

The Morwell Advertiser (June 26, 1952), made it known that the Morwell Shire Council will advise the Commercial Road State School Mothers’ Club that the campaign for immunising school children against diphtheria “is in hand.” In the same year, the Medical Officer of Health “has a plan for a two-day campaign of vaccination against small-pox.”

In February 1953, a report submitted to a meeting of the Shire Council by the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. A. A. Crook, pointed out:

‘The response to diphtheria and whooping cough inoculations was gratifying, according to the report, and with the vigorous advocacy of these inoculations over the past few years by local practitioners, there is reason to believe that the children of Morwell are in a large percentage immunised.’

Consider an idea that Mothers’ Clubs – or Parents and Friends Clubs – play a leading role in managing and co-ordinating delivery (by healthcare experts) of COVID vaccinations to a younger generation.