Donnison, in addition to practicising in the UK spent two and a half years as a doctor in a remote area of Kenya, and was clearly struck as were many of his contemporaries by the lack of non-communicalble diseases of ‘civilisation’ in his patients.
The first two chapters of the book gather data, and discuss it along with his own observations. He may be one of the first on record to describe these as “diseases of civilisation” and recognised that they probably had a common cause, but chose to discuss psycho-somatic rather than dietary influences.
The work is particularly interesting because of the general scarcity of this data in the public domain, and for the table of hospital visit related reported conditions in the 1930s (below).
He questions the observations that Africans were free of dental decay, but acknowledges that great detail as to their individual diets would be revealing. His comment on dental health is just that; the work of Weston Price on dental health in those on non-westernised diets, which included a visit to East Africa (Ch.9. (Isolated and Modernized African Tribes ) was both driven and rigorous. Of Muhima Tribe or Anchola, Uganda. Price observed for example “In a study of 1,040 teeth of thirty-seven individuals, not a single tooth was found with dental caries.” many groups had very low decay, although Price did observe higher decay rates in those living mainly on grain based diets.
The tables of data on disease incidence on pages 11 and 12, and blood pressure on page 16, are thought provoking. Donnison acknowledges and makes the point that the UK mortality figures do not in any way compare to the hospital presentation data, and that they were only included as no other comparator could be found.
Based on hospital data looking and between 283,000 and 831,000 hospital attendance cases in 4 African areas in the first half of the 1930’s, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, angina, diabetes, enlarged prostate, gall stones were in single and sometime double figures only.