Greene County Public Health during the 1930s


By Melissa Howell



Howell

Howell


The 1930s were filled with lots of changes and growth for the health district.

During this time, the health district adopted a budget of $5,255. Health Commissioner Dr. R. H. Grube resigned on Sept. 30, 1932. His successor was Dr. W.C. Marshall, a physician from Yellow Springs, who worked under a contract for $1200 per year. In January of 1933, the county auditor met with the Board of Health to stress the importance of the economy in all county expenses. During this time, the health commissioner assumed the sanitarian duties for three months, the board president resigned to the regret of other board members, and a letter was received from the State Department of Health encouraging the health commissioner to attend the fall conference. The health commissioner and board president went to see the county auditor regarding appropriations for the following year.

During the 1930s, Greene County had multiple cases of different communicable diseases. Seven cases of infantile paralysis (polio) occurring within 10 days at the turn of the decade. On Jan. 5, 1935, Health Commissioner Marshall approached the county commissioners for funding to support the work of preventing and controlling tuberculosis. On May 21, 1935, Dr. Marshall and school authorities dismissed school in Yellow Springs for 10 days prior to summer break, sending 220 school children home due to an outbreak of scarlet fever. Bacterium chlamydia trachomatis was responsible for cases of trachoma in the county. The health commissioner pushed for compulsory (required by law) vaccination to be passed by the boards of education during this time.

Public health nurses played a key role in disease prevention. In 1936, bills were not able to be approved for payment as the health district fund was negative. The board passed a measure that would have allowed the public health nurse to be paid her salary, which had been cut, out of any funds that were left at the end of the year. That same year, the State Department of Health met with the board in August and proposed a merger between the county and the City of Xenia.

Dr. Gordon E. Savage was made the first full-time health commissioner of Greene County from 1936-1963. Dr. Savage received his degree in medicine from The Ohio State University and was also a minister. He worked at a tuberculosis hospital, was in the Navy, and served in private practice. Following the Great Depression, the Federal Emergency Relief Act was passed. A Civil Works Administration was set up to help get people back to work. One area of focus was public health, welfare, and recreation. Three nurses were employed to examine and immunize pre-school children, and provide tonsil and chest clinics. School nursing, dairy inspection, restaurant sanitation, and retail food establishment programs were approved during Dr. Savage’s tenure and medical equipment was ordered. He passed away at 87 years of age in 1980.

Employment law also affected the health district. Prior to the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, health district employees were to sign that they were complying with legislation requiring them to report hours for their wages and submit their expenses. The board president signed payroll.

We encourage you to follow us on our social media platforms for weekly messages about our history featuring a decade each month. These messages can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. March’s column and social media posts will focus on public health activities throughout the 1940s.

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By Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell is the health commissioner for Greene County Public Health. Jillian Drew, GCPH health educator, contributed to this column.

Melissa Howell is the health commissioner for Greene County Public Health. Jillian Drew, GCPH health educator, contributed to this column.