The DuPage County Health Department

Highlights from the history of the Health Department - founded in 1945
Part 1

Early efforts to form a health department failed. In 1925, a local health department is organized in DuPage County but was unsuccessful due to a lack of legal authority for counties to collect taxes for operating full-time health departments. World War II causes health concerns and the creation of health “defense zones” that later become health departments. DuPage, and 18 other Counties in Illinois, are assigned this status in March 1942, which is financed entirely and operated as a wartime expediency, with active support and cooperation from local officials. Local public health machinery is enlarged and expanded through state financial aid and given authority to function as county health departments.

In June 1943, without a dissenting vote in the Illinois Legislature, a bill, prepared by the State Department of Public Health (later known as the Searcy-Clabaugh law) authorized counties by referendum or by resolution of the county board (if no special tax were to be levied) to establish and maintain through special tax assessments, county and multiple-county health departments.

November 1,1944, the DuPage County Health Department is established through a referendum vote of 33,633 to 19,492. The main concerns of residents were the lack of countywide sanitation measures, and ordinances governing dairies and food vendors.

The DuPage County Health Department opens on March 13, 1945 in the DuPage County Courthouse, 201 Reber Street, Wheaton. Sidney I. Franklin, M.D. is named the Director. With a budget of $39,000 and a staff of 15, the Health Department serves a mostly rural population of 125,000. One of the first acts of the new Board of Health was recommending enactment of five countywide sanitation ordinances: 1) Sanitary regulation of public water supplies; 2) Sewage disposal; 3) Garbage disposal; 4) Inspection of public swimming pools; and 5) Regulation of trailer parks.

In September 1945, the Health Department moved to 52 E St. Charles Road, Villa Park.

December 1945, the first Health Department budget is approved by the DuPage County Board of Supervisors. Also, nursing staff operate a new project—reports of all new births from 15 hospitals of area and a home visit to each new mother and baby. 

In 1949, the Health Department offers educational programs for dairies to teach new, safe milk ordinances. DuPage County is hit hard with 111 polio cases.

July 1951, John P. Case becomes Chairman of the Board of Health, a position he would hold until his death in 1975.

December 1952, the worst Polio epidemic in DuPage County history ended following 130 cases and 14 deaths.

In January 1953, registration of births and deaths are assigned to the Health Department.

September 1953, at a meeting of representatives of local boards of health in Springfield, the Illinois Association of Boards of Health was organized. Officers elected were:

  • President: Ralph P. Peairs, M.D., President, McLean County Board of Health
  • Vice President: Mrs. Helen Kirschke, Secretary, DuPage County Board of Health
  • Secretary: Mrs. Hubert Bohleber, President, Egyptian (tri-county) Board of Health

In April 1954, through the cooperation of the State Department of Health and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, DuPage County participates in the field trials of the Salk vaccine.

July 2, 1954 - The Health Department moved to 209 E Liberty Street, Wheaton.

In 1955 the estimated population of DuPage County is 182,000.

June 30, 1955, The DuPage County Health Department’s Annual Report titled “A Decade of Progress” is released. The report explains that the population growth in DuPage County has outpaced the use of private septic systems. The report states, “Health-wise, there have been signs of progress in these ten years … But there has been no progress in the area of disposal of human wastes.” The cure to what the report calls “suburbanitis” is to create sanitary districts along the most economical lines possible.

In the 1960s, with a population of 325,000, DuPage is the fastest growing County in Illinois and the 12th richest County in the United States.

In 1961, the Health Department moved to 222 Willow Street, Wheaton.

The Health Department first embraced technology in 1961 with the use of the County Treasurer’s IBM equipment to analyze causes of death in DuPage County to determine the best prevention method.

In 1964, Mental Health services are offered for the first time. Environmental Health Services (EHS) routinely collect air samples for pollution, radioactive “fall-out”, and pollen. EHS is designated to regulate garbage and refuse collection and disposal, inspect migrant labor camps and all coin-operated dry-cleaning establishments in the County. Additionally,The health Department identified five major needs for the improvement of health in DuPage County: 1) A mental health clinic; 2) countywide ordinances in housing; 3) countywide ordinances in mosquito control; 4) fluoridation in the public water supply; and 5) venereal disease education at the high school level.

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