We started with a big dream


ChestXrayClinicWe started with a big dream

It was the grand vision of a better future that began our story in 1939.

During the 1930s, tuberculosis (“TB”) was at epidemic levels across Canada. Community leaders in Kinsmen clubs (now KinCanada) across Alberta undertook the work of raising funds to help patients and their families stricken by this debilitating lung disease.

The work accomplished by these dedicated service club members  – who raised money by selling Christmas Seals despite the Great Depression – was the ground work for what The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT is today.

Incorporated in 1939, the Alberta Tuberculosis Association (“ATA”) was created under Alberta’s Friendly Societies Act. Its function, as listed by the province, was to “foster the sale of Christmas Seals, to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, and encourage the rehabilitation of those affected by tuberculosis.”

Alberta offered free treatments for tuberculosis patients and was one of the first provinces in Canada to do so. Part of those treatments included free diagnostic services, but tax-supported budgets in that era in Alberta’s history did have limitations.

This is why the ATA took on the role of raising $15,000 through Christmas Seals to pay for a new mobile x-ray unit that would be managed by Alberta’s health department in 1942.

Over the years, tens of thousands of x-rays were conducted in communities across the province. Treatment facilities for those affected by TB were established and public education campaigns helped to halt the spread of the disease.

But a much more important role for ATA was in funding research that would find better ways to diagnose, treat and even cure TB.

“In a sense, we look upon ourselves as a research division for the tuberculosis program,” said then-ATA president Eric Connelly back in 1947.

“We can test and prove an idea or a plan, and having proved it, (Alberta’s) Department of Health may carry it on.”

This work became the foundation of the association. Research on TB lead to advances in other areas of lung disease, improving lung health in communities across the province.

“The (Alberta) Tuberculosis Association, then, is the central office so-to-speak – the clearing house, the common meeting ground for doctors, the official tax-supported agency and members of the public at large,” said then-ATA president R.H. Roscoe back in 1949.

“It is a partnership which in Alberta has achieved a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness. I do not know of any other voluntary health organization that enjoys magnificent cooperation and support of the medical profession, the government and the public, that we do here.”

Did you have a family member who battled with tuberculosis during the 1950s and 1960s, or another story of interest worth sharing?

Share your story about your relative with us! Post your comments below or send us an email at jcummings@ab.lung.ca.

To learn more about The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT, click here!

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