March 17, 2020

100 Years of Public Health

As we enter a new decade, we are celebrating an even bigger milestone – our 100th anniversary. On March 17, 1920, the Clermont County Board of Health held its first meeting to organize what would become the Clermont County General Health District.

The creation of health districts in Ohio was a direct result of the nationwide influenza pandemic in 1918 that took thousands of lives across the country. Recognizing the need for more comprehensive public health services, Ohio lawmakers passed the Hughes-Griswold Act which created local health departments for cities and counties throughout Ohio. Prior to that, each city, township and village had their own form of health organization but each varied greatly in their structure and the services they offered.

Health departments were created to serve the residents of cities, while health districts were formed to serve entire counties. With the new laws in place, each health district in Ohio offered a more standardized level of service to its residents. Required services included data collection, food safety, birth & death records and disease control and prevention. Each health district had its own board of health and a minimum of three employees (a health commissioner, a clerk and a public health nurse).

Though we have grown from our original three employees to a staff of more than 50 dedicated people, our focus has stayed the same – to protect the health of our residents. Some of the services we offered in 1920 are still offered today, though they’ve been greatly improved. Along the way, some of our services have shifted to other state or federal agencies while we have added many more programs and services.

In the last century, there have been many advancements in public health which led to improvements in the overall health of our community. Some of the biggest public health accomplishments over the last 100 years are:

• Life expectancy has increased by more than 20 years
• Smallpox has been eradicated
• New vaccines have been created for diseases that were once common (polio, mumps, measles and
chickenpox are just a few)
• Better sanitation and hygiene practices have reduced the number of diseases
• Improved health care for infants and women during and after pregnancy
• Better food safety practices have decreased the number of foodborne illnesses

In 2020 we will be updating our Strategic Plan and our Community Health Improvement Plan. Both of those will be the foundation to guide our efforts and priorities as we move into a new decade and our second 100 years. Today’s top health priorities – drug use and abuse, tobacco use and childhood obesity have changed over the last 100 years, but our efforts to make our county healthier have not. Our mission is to improve Clermont County by preventing disease, promoting health, and protecting the environment.

 

 

Julianne Nesbit
Health Commissioner