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Enormous changes have taken place over the last century, but few can have had more impact on the lives of ordinary people than developments in public health and medical treatment. In 1899 the major conditions - tuberculosis (TB), hypothermia, scarlet fever - were still our main killers, taking thousands of lives of children and young adults in a way we can scarcely imagine today. By far the biggest threat came from TB, commonly known as consumption.
In Scotland alone 7,000 people died annually of the disease and many thousands more were left debilitated, destitute and orphaned. It was against this background that the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis (NAPT) was formed in 1899. Under its first patron, The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), the NAPT brought together the most distinguished doctors of the day to work for the eradication of the disease, primarily through public health education, and to relieve the suffering of those affected.
For 50 years the charity raised public health campaigns, developed sanatoria and clinics - based on Robert Philip’s pioneering dispensary in Edinburgh - and supported individual patients and their families.
By 1948 the death rate from 'the white plague' had been reduced by nearly two-thirds. Over the next decade, the introduction of new drugs (Streptomycin, PAS, and Isoniazid) finally dominated this disease, which had affected humanity for at least 6,000 years. Again this pioneering work was carried out in Edinburgh, by a remarkable team under Dr. (later Sir) John Crofton, who served for many years as a member of the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Council.
Meanwhile, the NAPT broadened its scope, incorporating other chronic chest diseases such as bronchitis, and addressing the rising concern over the impact of heart and circulatory disease. In recognition of these developments, the charity changed its name, becoming the Chest and Heart Association in 1948, and taking on stroke in 1976.
In 1991 we became known as Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS). This progression reflects the major changes in Scotland’s health problems over the past century. Where once infectious diseases were the main killers, today we suffer from amongst the world’s highest rates of heart disease, stroke and chronic respiratory illness.
As living standards have improved and our population has aged, new health problems have replaced the old. What has not changed, however, is our commitment to tackling these.
Our aim today is to improve the quality of life for people affected by chest heart and stroke illness in Scotland. Like our predecessors in the NAPT, we seek to achieve this in two main ways