Ohio State Board of Health

From Ohio History Central

During the late nineteenth century, Ohioans increasingly left smaller communities and moved to larger cities, where factory jobs were available. As thousands of people flooded the cities, numerous difficulties arose. One of these problems was health care. While more doctors tended to reside in large cities, the grouping together of so many people allowed for diseases to spread more easily than in rural communities. Also, many city residents, especially those people from working-class backgrounds, could not afford to visit physicians.

During Ohio Governor Joseph Foraker's administration, the state government created the Ohio State Board of Health. This government bureaucracy's primary mission was to limit the spread of diseases throughout the state. By 1890, the Ohio government required any city or village with a population of more than five hundred people to establish a local board of health. This board would monitor the community's health conditions. A local health officer was to inspect privies, register births and deaths, and quarantine people suffering from infectious diseases, among other duties. The local board of health also provided free vaccinations.

The Ohio State Board of Health was to supervise the local boards of health. It also was to develop policies that dealt with the "hygiene of occupations and railway sanitation, epidemic and endemic diseases and quarantine, water sources, sewerage, drainage, adulteration of food, drinks, and drugs, and heating, ventilation, lighting, and hygiene of schools." In this capacity, the Ohio State Board of Health helped contain and treat a diphtheria outbreak in Lancaster and Xenia. It also stopped a smallpox outbreak from spreading beyond the borders of Deunquat. In addition to these successes, the Ohio State Board of Health investigated cheese manufacturers and various slaughterhouses to ensure that a high quality of food was being produced. It also condemned portions of the Girls Industrial Home in Delaware as being uninhabitable.

Thanks to its efforts, the Ohio State Board of Health improved the health of the states residents. Other Ohioans made valuable contributions as well. Numerous people, especially followers of the Social Gospel and the Progressive Movement, believed that people must help their fellow human beings who were less fortunate than they were. Many of these people helped create settlement houses, which commonly provided free or reduced-cost health care for working-class Americans. They also enacted building safety codes, called for school nurses, and enacted other pieces of legislation to improve the health of their fellow Americans.

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