Time Machine Tuesday: Keeping Kids Healthy in 1944

In 1944 the Colorado Department of Education and the State Division of Public Health teamed up to issue a handbook for teachers with tips on understanding, promoting, and addressing health issues in schools.  Entitled Conserving the Health of Colorado’s Children, the booklet was put together by a joint commission which included members from the two state agencies as well as several local school districts, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Visiting Nurse Association, the Colorado Education Association, and other interested organizations.  The publication was issued as “the result of requests for assistance and information that have come from many teachers throughout the state.” 

The booklet begins by listing the “factors conducive to good health,” points that we can still relate to today which emphasize both physical and mental health: 

1.  Proper diet
2.  Fresh air and sunshine
3.  Play and exercise
4.  Sleep and rest
5.  Suitable clothing
6.  Healthful surroundings
7.  Protection against communicable diseases
8.  Periodic medical and dental examinations
9.  Normal mental attitudes

The booklet continues on to offer teachers advice on what to do with a sick child, including recognizing the signs of illness in children; how to ascertain when a sick child should be isolated from other children; suggestions on proper nutrition; activities to help kids learn about health and healthy habits; eye, ear, and dental health; mental health (the book’s top suggestion:  “create a happy school environment”); personality development; accident prevention; and how to control the school’s environment to ensure the best possible health of students (proper lighting, temperature, and ventilation; fire safety; playground safety; adequate desks and furniture).  The booklet also includes a long section on proper first aid that teachers can refer to when needed.  Finally, there is discussion of certain diseases and conditions, how to test for them, and how to manage and control them if a child becomes infected.  As this was during the era of polio, that condition is discussed at length.  Other diseases are included that are no longer much of a threat today, such as tuberculosis; but some of the diseases discussed in the booklet are seeing a resurgence, such as whooping cough.  Also less of an issue today, and discussed at length in the booklet, is proper sanitary measures particularly for schools that lacked indoor plumbing.  Aside from these few things, much of the information in the booklet is common sense and still relevant today — and the publication as a whole provides an interesting look at school life in the 1940s.