Public Health Services


Today people are living longer than ever before. In 1900, the life expectancy for the average American was under 45. Now it's in the upper 70s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this 30-year life span increase is due, in large part, to public health initiatives. Five of those years can be attributed to improvements in drugs and medicine. The other 25 years are the result of public health initiatives such as vaccination, sanitation, chlorination, and pasteurization, giving us safer and healthier foods, homes, and fluoridation of water. Public health provides broad protection in areas affecting our entire population--assuring that our air, water, and food supplies are clean and protected from disease and contamination.

In 1863, the first community health measure was taken in Olmsted County when the mayor appointed three aldermen to "take necessary steps concerning small pox."  It was at this time that Dr. William W. Mayo arrived in Rochester as examining surgeon for Civil War draftees.  in 1865 Dr. W.W. Mayo was appointed the city's first Medical Health Officer and one of three doctors on the first Board of Health -- 18 years before the state law required all towns, villages and cities to establish local boards of health.  The Board of Health dealt with issues related to small pox, other contagious diseases, birth and death registration, pasteurization of milk, garbage and to "abate such nuisances as slaughter houses."

In 1904, the State hired the first public health nurse for TB control, infant welfare, and care of the sick at home.  The first school nurse in the state was hired in 1907.  Ten years later, in 1917, the State Legislature passes a law authorizing county boards of health to hire public health nurses.  Olmsted County hired it's first public health Nurse in 1920; Public Health Nursing was deemed a profession in 1923 and the PHN certification began in 1925. Olmsted County Public Health Nursing Committee established to provide school health services, mother and child health services, and communicable disease control. By 1930, several clinics had been established including preschool clinics, community prenatal clinics, VD clinics (currently known as STD clinics), dental clinics and home nursing instruction.  Over the years, several important programs began that continue to today: school Public Health Nursing, rabies control and vaccination, mental health counseling, home health care services, air pollution control, and hotel/motel inspections.  Our Women, Infants and Children Nutrition program began 1975 and enrolled 41 participants.  Today, there are over 4000 participants.