The State Board of Health was established in 1889 to create a central organization to control disease and pollution and channel funds from the federal government to local health department. Taylor County was the first to organize a county health unit in 1930, followed by Leon in 1931, and Escambia County in 1932. Since inception, both Leon and Escambia have continued providing services without interruption. Taylor County did not provide services from 1933 to 1935.
Prior to the State Board of Health, each county had Boards of Health created out of fear of communicable diseases. However, these boards were run by people with little medical knowledge, usually lay people. The first form of public health activity began in Leon County as early as 1889 when they began working with quarantine agents in the control of yellow fever. The Florida Department of Health in Leon County (DOH– Leon) opened in January 1931, housed in three rooms over a shoe store at Monroe and Jefferson streets, with six employees. Dr. L.J. Graves served as the first health officer, and the first DOH-Leon staff consisted of two nurses and three sanitarians. They occupied at least two other locations downtown near the courthouse and Capitol until moving to the corner of Gadsden and Gaines streets in July 1940. The DOH-Leon's emphasis during those early years was "prevention of disease and the prolongation of physical and mental efficiency through organized community effort." The department functioned with three divisions: Clinics and Nursing, Sanitation, and Mental Health.
Today, as we continue our mission to "promote health, prevent disease," four satellite units (Roberts and Stevens, Richardson-Lewis also known as "Southside", Environmental Health, and Molar Express [Dental]) make up the full complement of the DOH-Leon. DOH-Leon has an administrator and 172 staff. The department is divided into 11 divisions: Administration/Business, WIC/Nutrition, Molar Express, Environmental Health, Nursing, Social Services, Communicable Disease, Health Promotion, Minority Health, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Public Health Preparedness.