QUINCY -- An Adams County department focused on the public's health is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
The Adams County Health Department was formed Nov. 7, 1944, when county residents approved a tax referendum to fund a public health department -- one of the first in the state.
Department history, including its first annual report in 1946, highlights work by the public health nurses to prevent illness through control of communicable disease, promoting healthful living for the school child and assisting in eradicating venereal disease and tuberculosis as well as the department's efforts to promote dental health education and operate a dental clinic; inspect food and drink establishments; reduce infant mortality and offer lab services.
Seventy-five years later, the department continues to work toward its vision to develop, protect and promote conditions for a healthy community through prevention, education, leadership and response.
It's important to celebrate "the effort of so many people over three-quarters of a century and really further than that to make the community we live in a better place," Health Department Administrator Jerrod Welch said. "We are excited that we can showcase some history of the health department."
Back in 1944, polio remained a real threat to public health.
"In this modern era, think about the idea that you could be exposed to something where your child is paralyzed from something that is a vaccine-preventable disease now," Welch said. "It's easy to forget that, but remember how far this community and this nation have come in making sure that our citizens are healthy."
Welch points to other accomplishments including a long-standing priority on dental health and providing a dental clinic.
"When there's a need, we've been able to form up programs around that need," Welch said.
Now and into the future, the department will continue to address public health issues.
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases are rising not only in the county but across the state. Communicable diseases remain a concern along with the emphasis on providing immunizations. Much work has focused on mosquito-borne illness, and the department plans a new focus on ticks.
At the same time, the department wants to continue its momentum on substance abuse, even with funding changes, so that "kids are hearing it's more normal not to do drugs, not to drink than to do those behaviors," Welch said.
"The vaping issue is certainly one we have right now. In the county we've seen vaping-related illness like a lot of places in the state," Welch said. "There's still a perception of vaping as potentially less harmful than smoking or chewing tobacco. Obviously, not a lot of data supports that assertion, so we want to try to change the perception of what that means to people, especially our youth."
The Adams County Health Department will celebrate its 75th anniversary with an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the department, 330 Vermont.
"We've sent out invitations to a lot of our community partners and community leadership, and we also invite the public to drop by if they have an interest in learning about the history of the health department," Administrator Jerrod Welch said.
Displays will highlight the department's service areas from the past and present as well as important pieces of its history.
"We'll have one of the original ballots. It was really simple back then -- a paper ballot, a yes/no referendum on establishing and maintaining a health department. We have one of the original congratulatory items out of the newspaper in 1944," Welch said. "We'll have pictures of all the buildings historically since 1944."
Guided tours of the department will be available.
"We've asked that some of our retirees come back and help with those," Welch said. "You'll see some familiar faces from the health department in the past."