Columbus Public Health History

A Rich History

Public health in Columbus has a rich history dating back to 1833 helping all people live healthier and safer lives, promoting social justice, and serving the underserved. Join us in a look back at the major milestones in public health.

Our Earliest Record

The earliest record of public health in Columbus dates back to 1833 when a committee of five citizens was appointed by the mayor to cope with an epidemic of Asiatic cholera. The committee waged a difficult yet successful battle against the outbreak and was appointed by the mayor as a permanent body to become active whenever a health emergency arose.

Diptheria, pneumonia, and diarrhea were among the threats faced by the residents. In 1900, these and other diseases caused the death of one of every six infants born in Columbus before the age of one. In 1852, Ohio law authorized municipal governments to establish Boards of Health which then became the designation for the committee of five. The first recorded meeting of a regular Board of Health, however, was on May 20, 1903.

By 1908, a health officer was designated and the role of the Board expanded beyond responding to outbreaks to include the adoption of regulations governing food products, facilities, and environmental nuisances. The laboratory was expanded at that time and a vital statistics office established to record the occurrence of all local births and deaths.

240 Parsons Ave 1833

Our Historic Home

Construction began on 240 Parsons Avenue in 1869. When completed in 1874, it became home to the Ohio State School for the Blind, initially housing more than 300 students. Between 1839 and 1901, more than 2,000 students were enrolled.

After the Ohio State School for the Blind vacated the building in 1853, other agencies called 240 Parsons home, including the Ohio Department of Public Safety (1954 to 1997) and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (1974 to 1997). In 1973, the original structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2001, this site became the main campus for public health services for the City of Columbus, and other central Ohio residents and visitors.

240 Parsons Ave today

Public Health Today

Since that time, public health has played a key role in the increase in life expectancy -- now 30 years longer than it was at the beginning of the 20th century. With six primary functions, services fall in the areas of: preventing epidemics and the spread of disease; protecting against environmental hazards; preventing injuries; promoting and encouraging healthy behaviors; responding to disasters and assisting communities in recovery; and assuring the quality and accessibility of health services.

Public health has made dramatic strides in improving community health and ensuring that our daily lives are safe. Some of these accomplishments include: traffic safety advancements, controlling the spread of diseases, fluoridating of drinking water, reducing tobacco use, improving the health of mothers and babies; reducing deaths from heart disease and stroke, creating safer foods, creating safer workplaces and providing vaccinations.