The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was established in June, 1916 and has grown into the largest public health training facility in the United States with a mandate to facilitate, “…research, education and practice to create solutions to public health problems around the world.” And in commemoration this anniversary, the school has collected one item that has made a significant impact on public health (for good or ill) for every year of that century and posted them online at “100 Objects.”
Presented in a simple grid of images, each one linking to more detailed essays, some of the objects are fairly obvious, like airbags and ambulances, but others, like luminescent watches and Horseshoe Crabs might be a bit puzzling. Still others are so ubiquitous that despite their obvious advantages, we hardly give them a second thought (think window screens, paper cups), and some may not be limited to the public health benefit that immediately springs to mind. Granted, sidewalks reduce your odds of getting hit by a car, but they also reduce obesity by encouraging walking over motorized transport.
When we think of our health, we tend to think of advances in pharmaceuticals, surgery, etc., but we’re surrounded every day by things that may have more impact on our personal, our neighbourhood’s, our planet’s health than any of those. After all, mosquitoes are estimated to kill 725,000 people a year, yet a $2.50 mosquito net can reduce the chance of infection by 90%. 100 Objects effectively makes the point that public health is not a question of one or two pivotal breakthroughs, but a vast and continually growing collection of advances and changes in practice that each contribute to keeping us alive and well.