100 Years of Public Health in Arkansas 

February 25, 2013 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Arkansas Department of Health. Over the last 100 years, public health advancements including disease control, immunizations, maternal and child health, sanitation and safer food and drinking water, have been credited with adding 25 years to our life expectancy in the United States. 

The beginning of the 20th century, both nationally and locally, marked a time in our history where awareness of disease control was at an all-time high. At that time, advances in laboratory science and epidemiology provided evidence and awareness that diseases were specifi c and often the result of individual behavior or environmental factors. Newly developing state and local health agencies, in conjunction with health department laboratories, began working to control sources of disease transmission.

With improvements in immunizations and sanitation, death rates for diseases like diphtheria, typhoid and yellow fever declined dramatically by the 1920s. During this same time, a major public health shift occurred in which the promotion of overall health was equally as important as the prevention of diseases. The concept of public health as disease prevention was now moving towards clinical care and education. In addition, participation and partnerships between state and local health agencies and the federal government developed to strengthen public health activities.

In most recent years, we have worked to ensure laws and regulations to restrict smoking, establish a comprehensive trauma system, impose graduated seat belt laws and expand water fl uoridation. Future public health activities will have to address obesity, chronic disease prevention and treatment, teen pregnancy and infant mortality. Across social, economic and political spectrums, the quality of life of all Arkansans is a direct result of our public health efforts. During 2013, events and activities are scheduled throughout the state to educate the public about the role and accomplishments of public health over the last 100 years.