HISTORY OF SELECTED PUBLIC HEALTH EVENTS IN CHICAGO, 1834-1999




Date


Events

1834

A temporary board of health was formed to fight the threat of cholera.

1835

Chicago Board of Health established by the state legislature to secure the general health of the inhabitants because of the threat of cholera epidemic. Chicago, then a town, had an estimated 3,265 residents.

1837

Chicago incorporated as a city of 4,170 residents. Three health commissioners and a health officer named to inspect market places, prepare death certificates, construct a pesthouse, visit persons suffering from infectious diseases in their homes, and board vessels in the harbor to check on the health of crews.

1841

Vital statistics start in a limited way with collection of data (age, sex, disease) related to deaths; an ordinance requiring reports of death was passed but not enforced for several years.

1846

A committee of the Chicago Medical Society reported the mortality rates through 1850.

1848

First cooperative effort of the medical profession and city officials to prevent the spread of smallpox as physicians volunteer to vaccinate the poor without charge.

1849

Cholera brought to Chicago by the emigrant boat John Drew from New Orleans, killing one in 36 of the entire population. A district health officer was appointed for each city block.

1851

A new city charter provided greater powers in health matters to the City Council. In the mid-1850's, with the city free from smallpox and cholera, the powers of the Board of Health were reduced accordingly.

1855

Sewerage became an issue; Board of Sewerage Commissioners was appointed and the first sewers were constructed the following year. The quarantine placard introduced with signs reading "Smallpox Here" after 30 die of the disease.

1857

The financial depression of 1857 caused the Board of Health to be viewed as a luxury; it was abolished and its duties were transferred to the Police Department. New permanent City Hospital completed at cost of $75,000. (Later taken over by Cook County Hospital as one of its earlier buildings.)

1862

Smallpox outbreak caused the City Council to appoint a Health Officer to work with the Police Department, but severely circumscribed tenure and duties rendered the position meaningless.

1867

A new Board of Health was established in response to the 1866 cholera outbreak with authority independent of the City Council and Police Department.

1868

Meat inspection initiated at Union Stock Yards.

1869

The Board of Health required vaccination of all children.

1870

First milk ordinance making it illegal to sell skim milk unless so labeled..

1871

Help given to refugees of Chicago Fire; camps of homeless inspected; and controls initiated for food supply and epidemic prevention. Birth and death records lost in the fire.

1872

In aftermath of the Great Fire, death rate increased 32.6 percent to 27.6 deaths per 1,000 persons. Smallpox attacked 2,382 and killed 655. Fatalities among children under five were the highest ever recorded. (For the period 1843 to 1872, children under five accounted for half of all deaths occurring in the city.)

1876

The health functions of city government were reorganized under a department of health, and a commissioner of health position was established.

1877

Commissioner of Health required the reporting of contagious diseases by physicians, a move opposed by many physicians.

1885

A cholera and typhoid epidemic kills 90,000 Chicagoans when a heavy storm washes sewage into Lake Michigan, the city's source of drinking water.

1888

Chicago Visiting Nurse Association was founded.

1889

Drainage and plumbing regulations issued, and five women inspectors of tenements appointed.

1890

Garbage disposal was placed under the direction of a general sanitary officer in the health department.

1892

Full milk inspection starts. Laws requiring reporting of communicable diseases existed; however, doctors argued they should receive payments for reporting as they received under state law for reporting births. Without this reimbursement, many physicians refused to comply and were prosecuted.

1893

Bacteriological laboratory opens to conduct microscopic examinations of milk samples and examine throat cultures for diphtheria. A "Boil the Water" crusade against typhoid was conducted.

1893/94

Last smallpox epidemic to cause great loss of life (1,033 died in its second year). Vigorous vaccination efforts (1,084,500 given) result in a reduction of cases to seven in 1897. During this period, the department was the first to proclaim the superiority of hermetically sealed glycerinated vaccine. Circulars distributed on hot weather care of babies in one of the first public education efforts. The Health Department began publishing a Monthly Statement of Mortality.

1895

The first diphtheria antitoxin issued, and a corps of antitoxin administrators appointed. Daily analysis of water supply inaugurated.

1896

Medical school inspections inaugurated---the second city in the U.S. to do so. Rules regulating the practice of midwifery were promulgated.

1899

Campaign against infant mortality enlists support of a voluntary corps of 73 physicians.

1900

Sanitary engineers reverse the flow of the Chicago River to prevent a recurrence of epidemics, giving the city the world's only river that runs backward. Department publishes a study reporting that the average span of life in Chicago more than doubled in a generation.

1901

Ordinance passed prohibiting spitting in public places. The Health Department began publishing State of the City's Health every week in the newspapers; Monthly Statement of Mortality was discontinued.

1902

Milk Commission of Chicago was established to ensure pasteurized milk was made available for needy children; diary inspections were started with the salaries of two dairy inspectors initially paid for by the Chicago Civic Federation. Fourth of July "Don’ts" were first promulgated to prevent accidents.

1903

A Tuberculosis Committee of the Visiting Nurse Association was established; it reorganized in 1906 as the Chicago Tuberculosis Institute.

1905

The 39th Street intercepting sewer opens, resulting in a marked decrease in typhoid deaths.

1906

City Council passed an ordinance providing for the licensing and control of restaurants.

1907

Chicago Tuberculosis Institute opened dispensaries for the diagnosis and treatment of TB cases.

1908

Full communicable disease program inaugurated, and 100 physicians sent to congested districts during July and August to instruct mothers in baby care. Forty nurses loaned to the department by the Visiting Nurses Association of Chicago to help in a scarlet fever epidemic. They were so effective that the City Council appropriated funds to hire the department’s first nurses to work in maternal and child welfare and communicable and venereal diseases.

1909

Chicago became first city in the United States to adopt a compulsory milk pasteurization ordinance. Public health nurses from the Board of Health, Visiting Nurse Association, and United Charities collaborate to become "finders of sick infants" and refereed these babies and their mothers to tent camps where treatment was provided and hygiene classes held.

1910

Municipal Social Hygiene Clinic established, and dispensaries required to report venereal diseases. New milk standards applied to ice cream. Health Department nurses were assigned to conduct intensive follow-up on babies in hospital wards where infant death rates were high; the Infant Welfare Society was organized as the successor to the Milk Commission.

1911

Common drinking cups and common roller towels prohibited by ordinance.

1912

Sterilization of Chicago’s water begins, and within four years the entire supply is being treated, causing a dramatic decline in the city’s typhoid fever rate---from second highest among the 20 largest U.S. cities in 1881 to the lowest by 1917.

1915

The Eastland, a lake excursion boat docked at the Clark Street bridge, rolls over while loaded with passengers; 812 die, 300 more than the Titanic. Dental services provided in Chicago public schools following a three-year introductory pilot program funded by a local philanthropist The Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium opened.

1916

Policy initiated to hospitalize all cases of infantile paralysis (polio) after 34 patients died out of 254 afflicted.

1917

Municipal Contagious Disease Hospital established. New health ordinances range from requiring the reporting and treatment of venereal diseases to requiring the screening of residence, stables and barns against fleas. Immunization against diphtheria with von Behring’s toxin-antitoxin starts in public schools and institutions.

1918

Influenza becomes a reportable disease with the pandemic of influenza reaching Chicago, to cause 381 deaths on one day (October 17) alone.

1919

Department wins its first case in the prosecution of landlords for failure to provide sufficient heat to tenants.

1920

The right of the department to quarantine carriers of contagion was upheld in the Superior Court of Cook County.

1922

New Health Commissioner began a campaign against venereal disease, proposing education and distribution of prophylactic outfits in brothels; opposition from medical profession was based more on moral than medical grounds.

1923

Committee appointed on prenatal care in the first concerted effort to coordinate the activities of all agencies doing prenatal work in the city. Inspection of summer camps for children inaugurated. Venereal disease clinics were established at the Cook County Jail and House of Correction.

1924

Venereal disease prevention literature distributed to 500,000 homes in Chicago.

1925

Department institutes a regular schedule of home visits by nurses during the first six months of an infant’s life. Conferences inaugurated for care of preschool children. Order installation of sanitary types of drinking fountains.

1927

Health Commissioner was forced to resign when mayor directs that the Health Department include political literature with information about baby care being distributed to all Chicago mothers.

1930

Intensive campaign against diphtheria results in 400,219 injections being given in three months.

1932

Staff or 300 nurses carried throughout the city on buses to give diphtheria inoculations. Physicians sent to the homes of mothers unable to take children to welfare stations for shots. After campaign, cases drop to 154 with nine deaths, compared to 1,266 cases with 68 deaths the previous year.

1933

Outbreak of amebic dysentery among out-of-town guests who came to the Century of Progress (1,409 cases and 98 deaths scattered in 43 states, the Territory of Hawaii, and three Canadian provinces) in the first recognized water-borne epidemic of he disease in a civilian population. Cause traced to water contamination through faulty plumbing.

1934

A plumbing survey for cross-connections in hotels and mercantile buildings begun to prevent future amebic dysentery outbreaks. As a result of drinking from contaminated water supply at the Union Stock Yards fire on May 19, 69 persons contract typhoid fever, 11 of whom die.

1935

Ordinance passed requiring that only Grade A milk and milk products can be sold in Chicago. A premature-infant welfare program initiated. A mother’s milk station starts operating to supply breast milk to premature, sick, or debilitated infants whose parents could not afford this expense.

1936

Summer brings 210 deaths from sunstroke and exhaustion compared to 11 from the same cause in 1935. With 1,000 premature infants under supervision, two additional premature stations open, making 31 conferences available each week.

1937

Chicago public schools open three weeks late because of a polio scare. Chicago Syphilis Control Project established with the emphasis on breaking the chain of infection.

1942

Chicago Intensive Treatment Center for venereal disease launches an effort so successful that it wins a War Department commendation in 1943 and records a declining VD rate following World War II demobilization, in contrast to soaring rates in other large cities.

1946

Chicago-Cook County health survey undertaken by US Public Health Service, including an audit of all city and county facilities conducted by outside experts. Various recommendations made, including more food inspection staff, establishment of district health centers, restructuring of the Board of Health with an executive director and deputies in charge of engineering, preventive medicine, and district health services.

1947

Mental Health section for Health Department was approved.

1948

A federal grant of $46,270 is made available through the State to subsidize a psychiatric program. Comprehensive food ordinance adopted by the City Council.

1952

Chicago counts 1,203 cases of polio, including 82 deaths and hundreds of persons with paralysis. Frightened parents keep their youngsters out of movies and swimming pools. Beaches close. Insect and rodent control program starts.

1955

Chicago is one of the first cities in the U.S. to introduce Salk vaccine after it is pronounced safe and effective against the polio virus on April 12.

1956

With warning signs of an approaching polio epidemic, mass inoculations of Salk vaccine given in all parts of the city with department staff working in vacant stores, garages, street corners, from the backs of trucks, and in park fieldhouses. Chicago takes the lead among major American cities in introducing a water fluoridation program, which reduces tooth decay among children.

1957

Nursing Home Section and Hospital Inspection Unit initiated.

1958

A section for chronic illness is activated, with mental health as one of its activities.

1959

First Community Mental Health Center started on South Side.

1960

Bureau of Institutional Care consolidates nursing home and hospital inspection services.

1961

Division of Adult Health and Aging begins consolidating activities of chronic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cervical cancer, rheumatic heart fever, and nutrition. A lead poison survey begins on Chicago’s West Side.

1962

Mental Health division, with more than 15 community-based mental health centers, is established in the Health Department.

1965

Family planning initiated in limited number of clinics.

1966

Testing for sickle cell initiated; citywide lead poisoning screening and treatment began.

1968

Planning for Comprehensive Neighborhood Health Centers in 4 areas began in cooperation with Chicago Model Cities program.

1970

First Model Cities Neighborhood Health Center opened in Uptown. A record 1.2 million inoculations were provided for Chicago children in immunization drive.

1973

Englewood Neighborhood Health Center opened. 40 hospitals approved as trauma centers in accordance with state statute on emergency medical services.

1974

Women, Infant and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program initiated. Senior citizen clinic and new hypertension center open while plans were unveiled to phase out the TB Sanitarium.

1975

City Council revised the municipal code to delineate the duties of the 9-member Board of Health as a policy making body and the Department of Health as the agency administering health programs and enforcing regulations. Outpatient TB services were decentralized to 5 health centers.

1976

Health Department formed interdisciplinary committee on child abuse with representatives from health, law enforcement, and welfare agencies.

1981

Chicago Alcohol Treatment Center comes under jurisdiction of Health Department only to be closed several years later with its funding used to support community-based providers of substance abuse treatment services. Refugee health program was initiated.

1983

Chicago Area AIDS Task Force was established and the Health Department creates an AIDS Activity Office.

1984

Partnerships in Health program was initiated with hospitals to assure continuity of care for Health Department patients.

1985

Health Department sponsors city's first major pastoral conference on religion and health.

1986

Infant mortality reduction strategic plan developed.

1987

The first child lead poisoning death in nearly a decade leads to the establishment of the Mayor's Task Force on Lead Poisoning.

1989

Health Department coordinates development of Chicago AIDS Strategic Plan through a multidisciplinary advisory council of 125 individuals.

1990

Chicago/Cook County Health Care Summit produces plan to improve local delivery of health services, calling for ambulatory care reforms, restructuring of inpatient care, and changes in system financing. As a result, the Chicago and Cook County Ambulatory Care Council is established to assess health needs and undertake initiatives.

1991

Epidemiology Office is established in the Health Department.

1995

Extreme heat conditions in Chicago during July result in 514 heat-related deaths. Violence Prevention Office is established.

1997

City Council passes Managed Care Consumer Protection ordinance, calling for the Health Department to created an Office of Managed Care---the nation's first municipal effort to monitor the managed care industry.

1998

Health Department coordinates development of Chicago Violence Prevention Strategic Plan, developed by more than 150 participants.

1999

Chicago Turning Point Partnership convenes to develop a plan to strengthen the public health infrastructure in Chicago.


Sources:


Chicago History Case Study last revised December 9, 2004 (epowell)