muokattu: 16.10.2023


Before the year 1907

During 1882, German Robert Koch found the Mycobacterium tuberculosis -bacteria, which causes tuberculosis. This discovery led to the start of systemic work against tuberculosis in Germany, from which the model later spread to other countries.

In the Nordic countries, the initiators of tuberculosis work were private organizations. A national society against tuberculosis was founded in Denmark in 1901, in Sweden in 1904, in Finland in 1907 and in Norway in 1910.

Origins of the name

During 1907, two associations were established in Finland: the Anti-Tuberculosis Association (Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistys) and the Association for the Assistance of Economically Disadvangated Tuberculosis Patients (Vähävaraisten Keuhkotautisten Avustamisyhdistys ), which organised, among other things, the first fundraising campaign for tuberculosis work in conjunction with the first general parliamentary elections. In 1930, these two associations merged to become the Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Association (Suomen Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistys), which was active until 1992.

In 1992, the association’s meeting approved the new name as Respiration and Health Association (Hengitys ja Terveys ry), which was in use until 2004. At the same time, a decision was made to establish the Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Association Foundation, whose mission is to support scientific research related to tuberculosis and lung diseases. Since 2004, the association has been named ‘Filha ry,’ derived from the association’s English name, ‘Finnish Lung Health Association’.

A pioneer in the fight against tuberculosis and Finnish healthcare

Especially at the beginning of the 20th century, the Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Association was a significant initiator in Finnish health care and started many activities that were later taken over by the state and municipalities. At the beginning of the 20th century, tuberculosis was a serious national disease in all European countries. In Finland, the disease was called lung disease, and in the 1930s around 8,000 people died from it every year.

In addition to diligent educational work, in the early decades of the last century, the Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Association was involved in the establishment of lung disease sanatoriums all over Finland. Tuberculosis care districts founded by the association started keeping tuberculosis registers in Finland, and in the 1940s the association started tuberculosis vaccination of newborns (BCG, sedation). In the 1930s, the associations long-time secretary, Severi Savonen, was instrumental in starting the tuberculosis inspections of high school students, which later led to the establishment of the Finnish Student Health (Ylioppilaiden terveydenhoitosäätiö, YTHS). The training of health care professionals was part of the resistance association’s activities from the beginning. The first training for tuberculosis nurses was organized in 1913.

Christmas Seal Homes

Newborns, whose mothers or other family members were sick with an infectious and dangerous lung tuberculosis, were placed in Christmas Seal Homes. Before the invention of effective tuberculosis treatment, the only way to protect newborns from tuberculosis and a very likely death, was to isolate them from their sick mothers for the first few years of life.

The Christmas Seal Homes maintained by the Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Association, were located in Tampere 1936-1973, Oulu 1945-1969 and Kuopio 1954-1969. In addition, Pälkäne had a side branch of the Tampere Christmas Seal Homes in the years 1939–1948. In total, 5,335 children were cared for in the Christmas Seal Homes during these years.

The Christmas Seal Homes were financed by selling Christmas Seals attached to Christmas greetings, the first of which appeared in 1912 and later every year from 1926 to 2001. Since 1927, the Christmas Seals have had a red double cross as a symbol, which was accepted as the universal symbol of the work against tuberculosis at an international conference in Berlin in 1902. Christmas Seals were drawn by many well-known artists, e.g. Martta Wendelin, Signe Hammarsten-Jansson and Erik Bruun.

Special charity tokens in favor of tuberculosis work had already been published earlier. In 1908, the Assistance of Economically Disadvangated Tuberculosis Patients published the first five-pence charity stamp drawn by Akseli Gallén-Kallela.

Expanding activities

From the 1970s, as tuberculosis became less common, the Finnish Anti-Tuberculosis Association began to expand its international activities and work with other lung diseases. The associations first development cooperation project related to tuberculosis was implemented in Yemen in 1971 as part of refugee aid. In the years 1980–1990, the association coordinated a large-scale tuberculosis project in Somalia, in the years 1996–2012, the association implemented numerous cooperation projects related to tuberculosis in the Baltics and Northwestern Russia, and in 1999, cooperation in Central Asia and the Kyrgyz lung health project began.

On behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Filha drew up national programs for various lung diseases starting in the 1990s. The national asthma program was published in 1994, the national COPD program in 1998, the national sleep apnea program in 2002 and the national tuberculosis program in 2006 (updated in 2013).

The association’s educational activities in Finland have also expanded since the 1980s. The association organized the first national infectious disease days in 1988. Since then, the days have been organized annually and bring together 400–500 professionals.

Literature (in Finnish):

Berglund, Åke: Suomen Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistys Joulumerkit, Suomen Filatelistiliitto ry, Vaasa 1994

Härö, Sakari: Vuosisata tuberkuloosityötä Suomessa. Suomen Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistyksen historia, Helsinki 1992

Savonen, Severi: Suomen Tuberkuloosin Vastustamisyhdistys 1907–1957, Helsinki 1957

Tamminen, Antti (toim.): Joulumerkkikotimme 1936–1973. Poimintoja joulumerkin 70-vuotiselta taipaleelta., Helsinki 1982

Teramo, Kari: Joulumerkkien tarina, Duodecim 2003;119:2337–45