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History of Science and Engineering

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R. VIRCHOW’S IMPACT ON SOCIAL MEDICINE PROGRESS AND SOCIALLYORIENTED HEALTHCARE MODEL
I.A. Petrova, I.K. Cheremushnikova

The article is dedicated to the contribution of the outstanding scientist, physician, anthropologist Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902) in creating a socially-oriented healthcare model. The examination of the relationship between health and socioeconomic stratification can be traced back to early socio-medical studies analyzing disease and mortality. Poor living conditions as a cause of disease have long been discussed. In analyzing his fi rst-hand experience as a young doctor of a typhus epidemic in Eastern Germany, Virchow identified malnutrition, unemployment, poor housing, educational defi cits and inadequate access to medical facilities as the main sources of illness and premature death. Virchow's coherent analysis of the etiological impact of poverty and other social and societal factors gave rise to the theory of socio-medical causation and to the development of the public health movement and of social medicine as a scientifi c discipline. Virchow linked disease, disability and premature death to the material conditions of social class and in particular to the poor access amongst the working class to nutrition, housing and clothing. He substantiated this view by reference to the higher rates of morbidity and mortality, especially infant mortality, in working-class areas than in wealthier parts of the cities. Virchow's studies on the social origins of illness and “social medicine” led him to demand social and political change as a solution to medical problems. Being a physician with a wide range of clinical and scientific interests, he also made important contributions to anthropology, ethnography. Virchow's conclusions are as valid today as they were in the mid-19th century. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the same social-political factors play a role in the risk of spreading of infection.
Keywords: Rudolf Virchow, social medicine, socially-oriented healthcare model, cell theory, cellular pathology, epidemic, pandemic.


DOI: 10.25791/intstg.8.2022.1372

Pp. 28-33.

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