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Lessons from the past: celebrating the 75th anniversary of Poverty and public health

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Clare Bambra



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


2011 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of George Cuthbert Mura M'Gonigle and John Kirkby's groundbreaking study Poverty and Public Health (1936). It was one of the first major texts to reflect the emerging ideas of social medicine and a forerunner of post-war investigations into health and social conditions such as the Black Report. However, unlike similar publications, such as Rowntree's study of York, Poverty and Public Health is now largely forgotten, except by historians. This editorial attempts to correct this neglect by paying tribute to M'Gonigle as a public health pioneer. It outlines his life and summarizes his classic work. It concludes by highlighting lessons that are relevant to public health policy and practice today. Born in Monkwearmouth near Sunderland in 1889, M'Gonigle studied medicine and then public hygiene at the University of Durham Medical School (Newcastle). He worked as the School Medical Officer for County Durham before serving in the First World War. He then became the Medical Officer for Health in Stockton-on-Tees from 1924 until his death in 1939. His campaigning (particularly about child and maternal health) and his ‘public health advocacy’ meant that he was held in great regard by the local population who called him the ‘Housewives' Champion’. Poverty and Public Health describes the health of the urban poor in the North East of England in the 1930s, with a particular focus on the town of Stockton-on-Tees.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bambra C

Publication type: Editorial

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Public Health

Year: 2011

Volume: 33

Issue: 4

Pages: 475-476

Print publication date: 01/12/2011

Online publication date: 20/09/2011

ISSN (print): 1741-3842

ISSN (electronic): 1741-3850

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdr070