Every year on May 5, health care professionals around the world recognize World Hand Hygiene Day, a global movement led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness about the importance of hand hygiene in health care.
While the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History of Innovation has become host to Mass General’s flu shot clinic, staff have set up a mini-exhibit of historical health posters for patients to enjoy while they wait. Eight reproduction posters from different decades display public health messages, ranging from a 1918 poster reminding people to cover their coughs so they don’t spread the flu, to a 1994 poster proclaiming pizza and boomboxes “in” and smoking “out.” The posters were developed by state and local governments or the federal government, and one was designed by an artist funded by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program during the Depression.
Some posters share information that present-day viewers are used to seeing from public health campaigns. For example, two are about the importance of vaccines. Some of them show their age a bit more, such as the one recommending that every home have a “sanitary unit” (an outhouse). Another poster reminds viewers that insects can spread disease. Since this concept was only proven in the late 19th century, the early 20th century audience would not have found this obvious.
The Russell Museum is currently only open for the public flu shot clinic through Dec. 12. Posters will be on view through the end of the clinic. Visit https://www.massgeneral.org/news/flu for operating dates and hours.
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