DELAWARE, Oh. – This year marks the 100th anniversary of two legislative acts that shaped the future of public health in Ohio. The Hughes Act and Griswold Act, both enacted in 1919, established the modern-day organization of local health departments and laid the foundation for public health efforts still in effect today.
As part of National Public Health Week, April 1-7, the Delaware General Health District is joining local health departments throughout Ohio to collectively celebrate 100 years of public health with a coordinated promotional campaign theme of “How the past has made public health matter.”
In the 100 years that have passed since the enactment of Hughes-Griswold, public health has had a significant impact on health and quality of life. People are living an average of 25 years longer, small pox, once a common, deadly occurrence has been eradicated, motor vehicle fatalities have been reduced by 90 percent and deaths from sudden infant death syndrome has decreased 50 percent.
Other accomplishments of public health include immunizations for children and adults, the control of infectious diseases, reduction of tobacco use, safer and healthier foods, better maternal and infant healthcare, increased preventative screenings and public health preparedness and response.
After a statewide smallpox epidemic in 1917 and the nationwide influenza epidemic in 1918, it became clear that a more comprehensive and formalized approach to public health was necessary.
The Hughes-Griswold acts provided that approach as written in the 1920 Ohio Public Health Journal of the Ohio State Board of Health, it “strengthens the hands of those charged with responsibility for people’s health as nothing else could have done.”
The Delaware County Board of Health was created as a result of Hughes-Griswold and the 1918 flu epidemic. The minutes of its first meeting, written in longhand, are dated January 31, 1920.
The Health District was established under basic services still performed today, including data collection, control and prevention of communicable disease, food safety, inspection and abatement of nuisances and “all steps necessary to protect the public’s health and to prevent disease.”
While the last 100 years have been filled with much success and progress, the next 100 years promises to show the ever-growing presence and importance of public health in our everyday lives. From the continued emphasis on the importance of immunizations, maternal and child health, food safety and vector surveillance, there are new horizons including dental care, substance abuse, health equity and cross-sector partnerships.
For more information about our local public health efforts, visit DelawareHealth.org