History

Public Health Presence
The Lawrence and Douglas County community has benefited from a strong public health presence for more than 120 years. The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department’s mission is to advance policies, practices and programs that promote health for all, prevent disease and protect the environment.
A young girl smiling after receiving a fluoride treatment.
  1. Past
  2. Present
  3. Future
Past
In 1885, the City of Lawrence hired its first Health Officer to control filth-borne epidemics. In 1942, Douglas County participated with the City of Lawrence in the creation of a joint city-county health department. The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department continues to serve as the local public health authority to this day.

Between 1885 and 1942, public health experienced significant growth. Noteworthy achievements include:
  • Establishment of a Kansas Board of Health in 1885
  • The formation of a U.S. Public Health Service in 1889
  • Expansion from a City of Lawrence Health Officer position to a City of Lawrence Health Unit in 1929
  • Sanitation programs commenced in the late 1920s
Collectively, these agencies helped the local public health authority respond to multiple epidemics of smallpox, typhoid fever, polio and most significantly the 1918 - 1919 Spanish Flu. Issues of sanitation and the prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases dominated the era between 1942 and the 1960s. In the 1960s and 1970s, after considerable debate spurred by the development of the birth control pill, the Health Department’s philosophy was defined to focus on preventive health care and environmental health. The Health Department played a key role in establishing the Health Care Access Clinic for the medically uninsured; the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center; and the Visiting Nurses Association.
Health Department