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Public Health, Department of

[Record group 80]
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Agency Function
The mission of the Department of Public Health (DPH) is to promote and ensure the availability, accessibility, and quality of preventive and personal health services necessary to protect and improve the health and well-being of the Philadelphia community. Health services provided by DPH are HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; maternal and child health services, including infant mortality reduction and prevention; mental retardation services; primary care and specialty services; behavioral health services including substance abuse prevention and treatment; mental health services; environmental protection activities; and communicable disease prevention and treatment. DPH maintains oversight for the Philadelphia Nursing Home (PNH), health care services at the Riverview Home for the Aged, and health services provided at the prisons, the management of which was transferred to the Philadelphia Prison System during FY '96.

Administrative Subunits
The Divisions of the Department of Public Health from 1920-1951 were:
Bureau of Health
Bureau of Hospitals

Beginning with the 1951 Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, the divisions of the Department have included:
Division of Health Education
Division of Vital Statistics; Office of Statistics and Research
Division of Air Pollution Control
Office of the Medical Examiner
Division of Health Center Administration
Division of Mental Health
Division of Preventive Medicine
Division of Public Health Nursing

Currently, in Fiscal Year 1997, the principal component parts of the Department of Public Health are:
Ambulatory Health Services
Maternal and Child Health
Philadelphia Nursing Home
Environmental Protection
Administration and Support Services
Office of the Medical Examiner
Mental Health/Mental Retardation
AIDS Activities Coordinating Office
Disease Control

Agency History
In response to the devastating Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, then Mayor Matthew Clarkson called together a group of sixteen concerned citizens including the eminent physician and cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, to help the city deal with the crisis. In the aftermath of the epidemic, this unofficial board remained intact to deal with the large number of children orphaned during the four-month scourge and subsequent, though less devastating, recurrences of the epidemic. The group was formally designated the Board of Health in 1794, making it one of the first in the nation. The Board attampted to deal with the city's public issues on an ad hoc basis for another ten years until 1804 when it was decided that the multiplicity and magnitude of public health issues of the increasingly expanding city demanded a full time effort from professionals trained in their duties. Thus, in 1804, the department subsequently to become known as the Department of Public Health and Charities was created.

The present department was created by an Ordinance of December 31, 1919 to succeed the Department of Public Health and Charities. The Bureau of Charities was merged into the Bureau of Charities and Correction of the Department of Public Welfare but its control of Philadelphia General Hospital and the Philadelphia Hospital for the Insane ("Byberry") was retained by the Department of Public Health under its newly formed Bureau of Hospitals. The Department also retained control of the Bureau of Health (its Hospital for Contagious Diseases passing to the Bureau of Hospitals) and the Board of Health. By an Act of September 29, 1938 Byberry Hospital was transferred to the authority of the Pennsylvania State Department of Welfare. The Department's existence was continued by the City Charter of 1951, and the Board of Health continued under it. The Bureau of Hospitals was replaced at that time by individual boards of trustees for each hospital; in 1953 the Trustees of the Hospital for Contagious Diseases were abolished and the hospital made a division of Philadelphia General Hospital. The Bureau of Health, as such, was dissolved and its functions distributed throughout the Department; an Air Pollution Control Board was established within the Department; the Board of Plumbing Supervision was transferred to the Department of Licenses and Inspections as the Plumbing Advisory Board; and the Department's function of the enforcement of its plumbing and housing sanitary regulations was also given to Licenses and Inspections although it retained the duty of formulating such standards.

Archival Records
80.1 Department of Public Health. Annual Report (1950, 1952-1980, 1987)

80.2 Department of Public Health. Historical Ordinances (1942-1952)

80.3 Philadelphia Public Health Reports and Publications (1949, 1952, 1956, 1959, c. 1961, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1978)

80.4 Reports and Publications Received (1950, 1952, 1959)

80.5 Scrapbooks (1931-1962)

80.6 Papers (1953, 1966-1970)

80.7 Monthly Bulletin of The Department of Public Health and Philadelphia Health Bulletin (1920, 1930, 1943-1952; missing January-April, August-December 1930, November-December 1943, September-October 1944, July, December 1945, February 1946, August 1950, March, April, December 1951)

80.8 Department of Public Health "Historical Publications" (ca. 1959)

80.9 Hospital Surveys (1947, 1949, 1953, 1956)

80.10 Health Code (1956, 1974)

80.11 Laws, Ordinances & Regulations (1928)

Current Records

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Last updated on April 24, 2000