Edmonton Health Department

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Edmonton Health Department

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On July 23, 1892 Bylaw 22-1892 was passed allowing for the formation of a permanent civic health authority comprising of the mayor, a licensed medical practitioner and members of the health and relief committee. Originally formed to protect against communicable disease, the Health Department was responsible for the promotion, protection and restoration of public health in Edmonton. In practical terms, the Health Department was charged with tracking communicable disease and vital statistics including births and deaths in Edmonton; ensuring proper sanitary standards were met regarding disposal of waste, and the cleanliness of food related facilities; and ensuring milk, meat and water supplies were free of contaminants. After the Second World War the Health Department began to put more emphasis on preventative measures through health education.

When it was first established in 1892 the Health Department consisted of a single part-time employee - the Medical Officer of Health. For the first few years the department's duties were limited, but as the City expanded so too did the Health Department. In 1912, when Edmonton amalgamated with Strathcona, the Strathcona Board of Health was dissolved and the Edmonton Board of Health expanded south of the river.

By 1919 the staff had grown considerably, and included a chief health inspector, a health inspector, a chief sanitary inspector, a sanitary inspector, a chief food inspector, a food inspector, a dairy inspector, a milk inspector and chemist, and a stenographer/accountant, all of whom reported to the Medical Officer of Health. By 1923 two nurses had been added to the staff, as well as several more health inspectors.

By 1931 the Health Department was organized into two main divisions: medical services, which included regional clinics, a child hygiene section and social services; and inspectional services, which included disease quarantine, sanitary inspection, and food and milk control. There were also separate sections for vital statistics and administration

In 1952 the health services provided by the local school boards in Edmonton merged with the Edmonton Board of Health, providing increased efficiency and allowing access to larger provincial grants.

Between 1956 and 1961 the Health Department had several distinct branches: Communicable Disease Control, Meat and Food Supervision, School Health Service, Milk and Dairy Supervision, the Well Baby Clinic, Sanitation, a bathhouse attendant and administration.

In 1962 the department was reorganized due to increased staff and responsibilities. Branches were broadened and clarified, and more formal procedures of communication and internal consultation were adopted. As a result the new divisions included Administration, Milk and Dairy, Communicable Disease, Medical Services, Well Baby Clinic, Dental, and Sanitary. In 1964 a Special Services Division was added that included the services of a psychiatrist, psychologist and a public health educator.

In 1968, following yet another reorganization, the Health Department had a Medical Services Division (including nursing, clinics, school services, disease control and mental health services); an Environmental Health Services Division (including public health inspection section, food control section, milk and dairy inspection section, and public health education section); a Dental Division, and Administration.

In 1970 the administrative structure had changed again, with Administration, Medical Services Division, Nursing Division, Tuberculosis Division, Community Psychiatric Services Division, Dental Services Division, Health Education Division, and Environmental Hygiene Division. In 1972 a Nutrition Division was created, and in 1974 the Home Care Division was added as well.

In 1975 the administration was simplified by moving the various divisions into the Health Protection Branch (communicable disease unit, environmental health division) and the Health Promotion Branch (medical unit, nutrition unit, family planning unit, nursing division, dental division, mental health division, home care division), with a small Administration section and a Research section both operating independently.

In 1980 it became legally necessary to identify the Board as an autonomous corporation, distinct from the City, which led to the decision to officially change the name from the Health Department to the Edmonton Local Board of Health. In February of 1984 the Board decided to separate itself from the City in areas of property management, purchasing, financial management, computer services, and personnel administration. Despite these changes, a City Alderman continued to sit on the Board.

The Edmonton Local Board of Health was renamed the Edmonton Board of Health in 1986. This organization was funded by the Province of Alberta and operated under their auspices. This Board was dissolved in 1995 when it was merged with the Capital Health Authority, whose work also includes acute care, long term care, rehabilitation, and community health.


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