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Early Board of Health. Photo Courtesy of Dr. Ronald Eckoff

Early Board of Health
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Ronald Eckoff

A Brief History of the Iowa Department of Public Health

The Iowa Department of Public Health traces its roots to 1880. That was the year the first State Board of Health was formed in Iowa. These first organized responsibilities included reporting the outbreak of infectious diseases and compiling birth and death records.

As the population grew and the demographics changed across the U.S., so did society's public health problems. In just a few years, the board of health's duties expanded from compiler and reporter of statistics to promoting and protecting the health of its citizenry.

The first board consisted of seven physicians, an engineer and the attorney general. Today, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has over 400 employees within six divisions-Acute Disease Prevention and Emergency Response, Administration and Professional Licensing, Behavioral Health, Environmental Health, Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention, Tobacco Use Prevention and Control.

These divisions touch virtually every aspect of Iowans' lives. IDPH employees are dedicated professionals who work to educate Iowans about the best ways to care for themselves, their families, and their environment.

Iowa citizens don't often think about how public health impacts their lives unless there is an emergency. Public health efforts are numerous. Some of the activities include vaccinations, motor-vehicle safety, infectious disease control, women and children nutrition, and tobacco use prevention and control.

Public health efforts have also improved society with a decline in deaths from coronary artery disease and stroke; safer and healthier foods; healthier mothers and babies; and fluoridation of drinking water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, due to public health, people today can be expected to live 25 years longer than they would have 100 years ago.

IDPH views health as a critical component of Iowa's future-healthy kids are ready to learn; healthy adults are ready to work and healthy communities are ready to grow. To ensure this future, The Iowa Department of Public Health supports a vision of "Iowa as a Healthy Community."

A healthy community approach includes more than health care; it also includes healthy workplaces, recreation and schools that teach our children a healthy lifestyle. It's about health promotion, disease prevention, chronic disease management, healthy lifestyle behaviors and community environments that encourage these behaviors.

A healthy community is about collaboration, sustaining action and building relationships. It's all Iowans working together to have an improved quality of life.

IDPH is proud of the accomplishments made to advance the health of Iowans.

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