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Home North Carolina Guilford County City of Greensboro Historical Markers Guilford County Health Department

Guilford County Health Department

Wendover Street at Cherry Street, Greensboro, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 5' 15.7632", -79° 47' 7.2564"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Established in 1911, it was the first county health department in N.C. and second in U.S. Now two blocks north."
     The county health movement nationwide was a direct outgrowth of the measures carried on from 1910 to 1915 against hookworm, typhoid fever, and other diseases. The first county health department in the country was created in Jefferson County (seat, Louisville), Kentucky, in 1908. In 1911 the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation providing for the establishment of county boards of health in what approximates their present form, providing for a five-person board of medical and lay members.

     Guilford County became the first in the state and, by all accounts, only the second in the nation to create a county health department. On May 1, 1911, the Guilford commissioners received a delegation asking that a competent physician be hired as a health officer and that he be employed thereafter “to give his entire time to looking after the health of the County.” The commissioners acted favorably on the proposal and appropriated $2,500 for the individual’s salary and expenses. Within days Dr. G. F. Ross was retained for the position.

     Guilford’s initiative was matched in 1912 by Robeson County which became the nation’s fourth county health department and the first to serve a rural population. The county health movement flourished but it was not until 1949 that all 100 of North Carolina’s counties had organized health departments (established in that year were units in Brunswick, Jones, Madison, and Pamlico Counties).

John A. Ferrell and Pauline A. Mead, “History of County Health Organizations in the United States, 1908-1933,” Public Health Bulletin, No. 222 (1936)
Roddey M. Ligon Jr., Public Health in North Carolina: A Guidebook for County Commissioners (1960)
Vicki Winslow and Anne Dellinger, “Responsibilities for Public Health in North Carolina,” Health Law Bulletin, No. 68 (1984)
Public Health in North Carolina: Historical Highlights, 1877-1977 (1977)
Guilford County Board of Commissioners Minutes, 1911, North Carolina State Archives
Guilford County Health Department North Carolina