The Health of Towns Association was founded to encourage Sir Robert Peel's government to enforce sanitary reform. It was considered by the great majority of its supporters to have fulfilled its mission when the Public Health Act was passed in 1848. However, this legislation was applicable to every town and city in England apart from London. In February 1849, the Metropolitan Sanitary Association was established on the basis that the population of London (around 2,000,000 people) were without any provision or effective organisation for their health and living conditions.
The Association had many wealthy and influential members, including the author Charles Dickens, and sought to improve the living and working conditions of many London districts.