Public health and children's well-being and health during antiquity

Vesalius. 1995 Jun;1(1):31-5.


The health and well-being of children depends on many factors. These factors may include: 1) geographic location, 2) genetic composition of the population, 3) existence of parasites and their hosts, 4) previous history of diseases (e.g. immunity) and 5) socio-economic structure (Grmek 1989). During the last two centuries, industrialized societies have successfully manipulated several of these factors for the benefit of children. But what were the possibilities in pre-industrial societies to improve public health and to promote the health of children? The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between public health and the health and well-being of children during Antiquity (roughly 500 B.C.-500 A.D.). To realize this aim, both written and archeological evidence was considered. Unfortunately both types of sources are biased, their data being defective with regard to children. Public health was not a major topic of interest for ancient authors (medical or others). There are few archaeological studies which have concentrated on public health aspects (e.g. water supply, sewers, housing conditions) of ancient societies.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Care / history*
  • Child Welfare / history*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Greek World
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Public Health / history*
  • Roman World
  • Sanitation / history*