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History of paediatrics and child health

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HIS/THUR/01 PLEASE SIR I WANT SOME MORE: WORK IN PROGRESS ON 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY PAEDIATRIC DIETS

A Williams. Northampton General Hospital, Northampton, UK

Before effective medical treatments were available, prescribed diets have recently been speculated as providing a beneficial intervention for hospital patients. Dietary regimes have also been thought harmful for long-term inmates within institutions such as workhouses. This question is examined using formal dietetic assessment on published eighteenth and nineteenth century diets.

On Thursday 29 March 1744, Thomasin Grace, a 13-year-old girl, was the first inpatient admitted to the Northampton General Infirmary (later the Northampton General Hospital). She was an inpatient for 10 weeks before she was discharged cured on 7 July 1744. Her condition, scald head, is now recognised to be chronic ringworm, which is exacerbated by chronic malnutrition.1 Previous comments on 18th century voluntary hospital diets have suggested that these diets were initially poor and gradually improved throughout the 18th century. However, this opinion was given without a dietetic assessment of the diets themselves.2 A full dietetic analysis of the menu that Thomasin would have been given in 1744 is compared with a comparable 2007 inpatient menu from Paddington paediatric ward at the Northampton General Hospital.

The most famous fictional hungry child must surely be Oliver Twist, whose famous words to Mr Beadle speak of want, injustice and chronic neglect.3 The second part of this paper will determine whether …

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    BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health