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, and 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 to work for the eradication of the disease.
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 finally dominated this disease. Again, this pioneering work was carried out in Edinburgh, by a remarkable team under Professor (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.
Real People, Real Stories
I head up an international trouble-shooting operation, serving major clients in Europe, America and Asia. Between family and work – life is very busy and I love every aspect of it.
In 2014 though, while working in England, I felt like I was coming down with a heavy cold and it was difficult to breathe properly. My symptoms worsened and I was diagnosed with heart failure.
My condition is now managed with medication. Thanks to an additional text messaging support system, I’ve been able to continue my lifestyle. The system is known as Florence and is part of a pilot project in Lanarkshire. It aims to help patients, like me, who have had hospital treatment for heart failure. I’ve been provided with equipment and shown how to self-monitor details like my weight and blood pressure. I then text the details to an automated system, programmed by specialist nurses with my individual health details.
The service replies with advice and information, like medication reminders, all based on the latest readings. Crucially, it can identify flare-ups at the earliest stage. If anything unusual is detected, I receive an automated message. A specialist nurse is also alerted – who can contact me with advice or help by phone or text message, or even arrange medical assistance if necessary.
I also receive periodic visits from my heart failure nurse. After my initial hospital treatment, I was advised that I required weekly checks. Every Wednesday, wherever I am in the world, I send in my readings. So far, I’ve sent information from Paris, Milan, Hanoi and New York.
I see the Florence system as a safety blanket and international lifeline, all in one. I can get on with my life, knowing there are experts in the background keeping an eye on me.
For more Real People, Real Stories visit : https://www.chss.org.uk/us/real-people-real-stories/