The history of public health in Greene County includes information from meeting minutes of the Board of Health, annual reports and meeting minutes of the District Advisory Council. It is intended to document the health district’s successes and inform readers of where we have been collectively. It is updated annually to reflect major achievements, changes in focus on specific health threats and reflect upon the tenure of the health commissioners who have served Greene County. Over the past 100 years, public health in Greene County has been impactful and successful. The public health system has transformed from reacting to outbreaks of disease to a preventive community stance.
Greene County Public Health (GCPH) was formed in response to the Hughes-Griswold Act as a separate political jurisdiction of the State of Ohio. Evidence demonstrates there were health officers or boards of health prior to the Hughes-Griswold Act, but the legislation mandated the villages and townships combine to establish a general health district and the cities automatically formed their own health district. The general health district was originally formed by Bath, Ross, Spring Valley, Caesarcreek, New Jasper, Miami, Silvercreek Cedarville, Jefferson, Sugarcreek and Xenia townships; and the villages of Fairfield, Osbourne, Yellow Springs, Cedarville, Bowersville, Clifton, Spring Valley, Jamestown and Bellbrook. Much like a school district, a health district has a specific geographic location and is overseen by a board. While many refer to health districts as health departments, there is only one health department in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The authority to carry out duties in a local health district stems from the Ohio Revised Code Chapter 37 and the associated sections of Ohio Administrative Code.
The District Advisory Council (DAC) is composed of the chief officials from the townships and villages. The DAC is responsible for appointing members to an oversight body called the “Board of Health” and considers reports of the health commissioner and makes recommendations to the board about health problems in the community.
Early activities of the district involved providing community health services for diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, rabies, smallpox, and premise sanitation. The Board of Health during this time was responsible for the maternity licensure of two Yellow Springs hospitals and one Jamestown hospital. It is interesting to note that the health department’s participation in the Greene County Fair started with assisting the ODH in the latter’s exhibitions at the fair.
According to documents provided by Greene County Archives, at an early meeting of the Board of Health in February 1920 at the Xenia Township office, members L.C. Walker, Charles L. Bogle, S.S. Early and Harvey Elam voted unanimously to hire Dr. R.H. Grube as the first health commissioner of Greene County. Dr. Grube was to “be employed for a term of three months (February 15- May 15, 1920) at a salary of $100 per month and an additional allowance of not to exceed $25.00 per month for traveling expenses.”
The minutes of that meeting go on to state that it was “moved by Elam and seconded by Bogle that Dr. Grube and Mr. S.S. Early be appointed a committee to look up an office, equipment, and a suitable person for clerk and make a report to the Board at its next regular meeting.”
It was not until ODH proposed, in 1932, a merger between the general health district and the Xenia City Health District, did the county health department get into substantive health activities such as examination and immunization of preschool children, tonsil and chest clinics, and tuberculosis (TB) investigation. The TB work apparently increased dramatically enough that the board contacted county commissioners to set aside funds to combat this disease.
Throughout this year, GCPH will celebrate 100 years of providing programs and services to Greene County residents. Each month, a column focused on the rich history of public health will be featured.
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, we will celebrate the actual day that the first Board of Health meeting was held in 1920 with a public Centennial Celebration at the office of GCPH located at 360 Wilson Drive in Xenia. Birthday cake, hors d’oeuvres, and mocktails will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. along with the unveiling of a historical marker. State and local officials will be in attendance, as well as Dr. Amy Acton, ODH director. The public is invited.
We encourage you to follow us on our social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn — for weekly messages about our history featuring a decade each month. February’s column and social media posts will focus on public health activities throughout the 1930s.
Laurie Fox is the public information officer for Greene County Public Health. This column was adapted from “A History of Public Health in Greene County” by William P. McCullough, with assistance from Health Commissioner Melissa Howell and Greene County Archives.