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Getting Back to Our Roots: The Rise of Local Health Depts in the US
David A. Ross, ScD

In 1911, Yakima, Washington suffered one of the worst typhoid epidemics in our nation’s history. The resulting national investigation and community call to action led to the development of the essential elements of modern local public health.

I encourage you to read the story of the Yakima typhoid epidemic and its impact on the evolution of local public health departments, paying close attention to the parallels of public health’s role and the similar public sentiments that we see today.

Some similarities of note:

  • Community opposition to expanded government authority in accomplishing public health solutions to population health threats
  • The challenges of determining the source of an outbreak
  • The impact infectious diseases can have on local economies, particularly rural and agricultural towns and cities
  • The value of community health education to advance public health initiatives
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