Public health Until the beginning of the 20th century, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox, typhoid and cholera were the major causes of death but these became much less of a threat to health and life amongst non-Aboriginal Australians as a result of improvements in sanitation, the introduction of enlightened public health laws and the increase in the number of public health workers (Waring Roreden and McLennan, 1992). In the non-Aboriginal population, life expectancy has increased considerably and the major causes of death are now cardiovascular disease, carcinoma and accidents. Wass (1994) suggests that Australia '. . . is now regarded as one of the healthiest countries in the world'. However, major inequalities exist in health, with some groups having considerably poorer health status than others. Most notable is the health of Aboriginal people, whose health status has been described as similar to that of the peoples of the developing world.