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The Greatest Medical Milestone Since 1840

The British Medical Journal conducted a survey of over 11,000 people to determine the most important medical milestone since 1840. The overwhelming winner of the survey? Simple sanitation, with nearly 16 percent of the votes.

Improved sanitation, such as sewage disposal and clean water supply systems, has reduced many diseases, including cholera, and helped spread the importance of disease prevention through more “passive” means.

Sanitation beat out other top choices, including the discovery of DNA, antibiotics, anesthesia, the contraceptive pill, imaging techniques and computers. Ironically, some of the oldest medical tenets are also the best; this milestone is still in full-force today, with most medical experts recommending simple hand washing as an excellent way to reduce your risk of infections. Sadly, however, inadequate sanitation is still a major challenge for many developing countries.

British Medical Journal January 18, 2007

BBC News January 18, 2007