The first meeting of the Hamilton County Board of Health occurred on Sept. 26, 1919, following passage of Ohio’s Hughes Law and the Griswold Act. The Griswold Act created minimum requirements for local health departments in every community of the state and became the operational foundation for the Hamilton County General Health District.
Prior to 1919, each municipality or township in Ohio operated as its own health district, employing part-time, little-educated public health employees on salaries averaging $4-10 a week. More than 2,100 health districts existed in Ohio in the first two decades of the 1900s, with little oversight from the State Board of Health.
The Hughes Law and subsequent Griswold Act, which received widespread support from labor unions, women’s organizations and medical professionals, created a public health model for the country by organizing local health districts into city and county areas of populations of 25,000 or more.
At a minimum, each district was required to employ a full-time health commissioner, a nurse and a clerk. In addition, each district was required to have a five member board of health, with the health commissioner serving as administrative or executive agent of that board. A newly reorganized State Department of Health was given more oversight over local health districts, though local health officials retained the authority to resolve local issues.
In addition to monies collected at the local level, a $2,000 state stipend was given to each local health district to assist in carrying out public health duties in their respective jurisdictions. In Hamilton County, Dr. C. Aleshire Neal was appointed the county’s first health commissioner in 1920. Dr. Neal soon after submitted a proposal for the district’s 1921 operating budget, totaling $20,000 including salaries for 13 part-time sanitarians, a microscopist and a clerk. In 1929, Dr. Neal left Hamilton County to become the State Director of Health.
Much of the public health work conducted in Hamilton County in the 1920s is still carried out in some form today. For example, issues including school inspections, communicable disease prevention and reporting, and sanitation issues are still concerns in the 21st century.
Today, thanks to advances in technology and communication systems, these processes are carried out more quickly and more efficiently.
- Partners in our community can be notified within hours of imminent public health threats or emergencies.
- Food safety inspections, including restaurants, school cafeterias and grocery stores, are now conducted digitally, making inspection reports available to residents the next day with just the click of a mouse.
- Illnesses that once led to community wide outbreaks can now be identified, tracked and treated much more quickly thanks to a real time communication system shared by a network of hospitals and physicians throughout the region.
Hamilton County Public Health serves more than 460,000 Hamilton County residents living outside the cities of Cincinnati, Norwood and Springdale. With a staff of more than 80, including sanitarians, plumbers, health educators, nurses and epidemiologists, Hamilton County Public Health strives to prevent disease and injury, promote wellness, and protect people from environmental hazards.
Hamilton County Public Health
Healthy choices. Healthy lives. Health communities.
250 William Howard Taft
Cincinnati, Ohio 45219