Online Exhibitions/Resources

Edinburgh: The Healthy City

This 16mm silent film was made by the Public Health Committee of Edinburgh Town Council in 1937 and first shown in 1938. The hour-long original was partly shot in colour and was divided into six reel-length sections so that different parts could be shown depending on the target audience. However, three sections (3, 4, 6) relating to the City Hospital and the importance of outdoor recreation are not extant. Click on the links below to view each section of the film.

The first section commences with Edinburgh's historical background and has some footage of the State Entry of George VI and Queen Elizabeth following the Coronation. The work of the Public Health Committee is then featured, followed by the role of the Public Health Department and the Medical Officer of Health. The emphasis in this section is very much on the promotion of health and the prevention of illness in mothers and babies. The work of the health visitor, antenatal clinics, mothercraft and postnatal home visiting are each shown.

The second section continues the child welfare theme, with "before and after" advice given by a health visitor to a mother and baby in their typical one-room tenement family home. The father is present in one corner but also "invisible" in that he has no role in the demonstration of mothercraft, as opposed to the parentcraft of today. Another father is then shown visiting the City Chambers to buy a subsidised fireguard, another telling image of how the father's role in baby care was perceived at the time. Child Welfare Clinics - "the Health HQs of His Majesty the Baby" - are then shown. Scenes of developmental check-ups by doctors, artificial sunlight therapy and immunisation for diphtheria follow.

The fifth section deals with smoke abatement, port sanitation, the adulteration of food and other activities of the Sanitary Department side of public health work.

By portraying school health procedures, the final film continues the theme of municipal public health as the prevention of illness in young future citizens, even though it is probably not part of the original Healthy City sequence. It commences with the treatment of minor ailments and routine medical inspection in the classroom by the school nurse - eyes, ears, hair and teeth. This is succeeded by various follow-up procedures. There are also a brief clips on the care of tuberculous school children and the measurement of mental development. In this film, as in the others, great emphasis is placed on keeping of accurate health records of mothers and children so that preventative health measures can be monitored. Very few of these records survive today (see Public Health Department of the City of Edinburgh [LHB16]).

You will need to download the FREE RealOne player to view the films.

We would welcome any feedback about these films, and hopefully soon we will be able to add more to our site.  Please note that the copyright on these films is held by Lothian Health Services Archive, and that permission to use these films must be given by LHSA. 

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