Celebrating 100 years of health

Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes places items into a time capsule during a Thursday afternoon open house celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Miami County Health Department.

Mike Ullery | Miami Valley Today

MIAMI COUNTY — From requirements on glass milk bottles, which used to grace each porch, to today’s hazards of electronic cigarettes, Miami County Public Health’s focus remains fixed on the well being of Miami County residents.

On Thursday, the organization held a 100th anniversary open house to commemorate the county’s century of safe and healthy practices, which have progressed through the years.

Among the artifacts and news articles were two ledgers, one from 1919, the first year of the county public health board, and a city of Troy ledger dated 1909.

With the Spanish flu and small pox disease rampant across the nation, Ohio legislation passed the Hughes and Griswold Act to establish the public health department organizations, which still impact residents lives today. A century ago, Tipp City, Troy, Piqua and the county had their own individual departments. Today, MCPH and the city of Piqua maintain their public health records and resources.

Commissioner Dennis Propes said, “Looking back at some things that were going on back then, the issue of small pox and Spanish flu were the big catalysts that made the creation of these health departments vital.”

Propes has served as the health commissioner for approximately six years. The county’s first health commissioner was Dr. Haworth, although Propes noted the position changed five times in its first decade.

“It’s a 100 years of hard work … it is a tough job telling people to do things they don’t want to do for the first time, so the turnover was pretty good,” he said.

One historic focus of the public health department was centered around ice and keeping food safe for consumption, an issue sanitary inspectors still thoroughly review at restaurants, catering business and school cafeterias today. Another key issue a century ago was establishing set back standards for livestock, such as requiring hogs to be 300 feet away from dwellings.

“Those are some of the things that we are still dealing with today,” Propes said. Propes shared the first budget for the county health district was $25,000, with staffing accounting for the majority of the budget. Transportation was also an expenditure as the district purchased cars for $4,300. Today, Propes said the Miami County Public Health budget is approximately $4 million, half of which is marked for the salaries of 41 employees. One vehicle today cost $20,000 for the district’s use.

“Things change, but they still remain the same,” he said. “They had five employees, we have 41 now. Some of the issues we are dealing with now are different from back then. We have the vaping issue that is the forefront of what we do. We do a lot with the drug overdose issue, yet we are still dealing with some of the same problems. Flu is something we still deal with, but with the flu vaccines, we dropped the lethalness of the flu a lot less than it was back then.”

Propes said food inspections is one of the most visible services the health district provides. A historic example from the city of Troy’s health ledger included resolutions to enforce dairies to boil milk bottles for 15 minutes before their reuse.

Propes said published food inspections drives the most feedback he personally receives as the health commissioner.

“It’s something the public likes to know. It’s something we like to do for the public,” Propes said.

MCPH also commemorated the anniversary by gathering artifacts to place into a time capsule.

For more information about the Miami County Public Health district, visit www.miamicountypublichealth.net.