The Pump Handle is a place for people interested in public health and the environment to discuss the issues that interest us. The story of the pump handle is familiar to any first-semester public health student: During the London cholera epidemic of 1854, John Snow examined maps of cholera cases and traced the disease to water from a local pump. At the time, the prevailing theory held that cholera spread through the air, rather than water, so Snow faced criticism from others in the science community – not to mention resistance from the water companies. He finally convinced community leaders to remove the pump’s handle to prevent further exposure.
More than a century later, thousands of people still die from cholera each year, and providing clean drinking water to the world’s entire population is a far-off goal. The Pump Handle symbolizes both a public health victory and the challenges facing the public health and environmental fields today.
Because the blog’s primary authors, Liz Borkowski and Celeste Monforton, work for the Department of Environmental Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health & Health Services, much of our content focuses on environmental and occupational health issues. Our occupational health work is supported by a grant from the Public Welfare Foundation. The views expressed on this blog are solely those of its authors, and do not reflect the opinions of the George Washington University or our funders.
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