Friday, May 25, 2007

The Health of a City

This is a great documentary from 1965, commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the post of public health officer for Glasgow. It gives some context to the innovations in public healthcare pioneered in this city from the mid-19th century onwards. It's a nicely shot and edited piece of work which conjures up some of the extraordinary richness of Glasgow's culture and the resilience of its people. It also demonstrates the absolute necessity of continual innovation and improvement in public services if we are to solve the challenges of the 21st well as the pride in the creation of a National Health Service. I wonder what sort of a documentary could be commissioned now, 52 years on? In some ways this film feels that it could have been made much more recently than 1965. What is so smart about it is that it makes the policy and planning links between culture, economics, health and social policy, and community, down to details of food safety and the social conditions in which people are living...and shows the aspirations which underpinned the foundation of the Welfare State, and how they were taken up by the Corporation of Glasgow. A great piece of social documentary, but you can see all too clearly how the welfare state was transformed into the nanny state in the popular imagination of the 1970s and 1980s, as it ran into a tidal wave of consumer capitalism and can also see how the socialist utopias of the 20th century contained within themselves the seeds of their own destruction...

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