Health Department History 1961 - 1990

1961: Rabid foxes are blamed for the majority of animal rabies cases in Tennessee: 205 reported. Also in 1961, the State Legislature passed a Post Mortem Examination Act that went into effect July 1, 1961.  Under the general supervision of the Chief Medical Examiner, medical examiners functioned in 88 counties, investigating causes of death of “sudden violence or by casualty or by suicide or suddenly when in apparent health or when found dead, or in prison, or in any suspicious, unusual or unnatural manner…”

1963: Thousands across Tennessee participate in the Sabin Oral Sundays program – going to schools and other locations for sugar cubes saturated with Sabin vaccine to prevent poliomyelitis.

1964: The first planned parenthood clinic in Tennessee opened in Williamson County in January, 1964.

1965: A total of 251 residents die from tuberculosis in Tennessee.  That same year approximately 73 percent of Tennessee’s population gets it water from public sources instead of private wells and springs.

Also in 1965, a federal-state agreement on atomic energy becomes effective Sept. 1, 1965, which provided for a wide-range radiation control program involving most radiation facilities within the state.  

1966: First years since records were kept that Tennessee had no reported cases of diphtheria or poliomyelitis. Also in 1966:

  • Medicare services begin in Tennessee July 1, 1966, with 81 county health departments certified as Home Health agencies and qualified to collect from the Social Security Administration funds for home nursing care to eligible citizens more than 65 years of age. 
  • Tennessee’s death rate is 6.1 per 100,000 people, compared to 3.9 per 1,000 for the United States.  For the first time in recorded history of the state, there were no cases of diphtheria or poliomyelitis in 1966.
  • In the 1965-1966 year, 2,259 medical investigations were made and 472 autopsies performed through the efforts of medical examiners in 85 counties. 

1967: The Tennessee Legislature passes a law requiring children to be immunized before they could be registered for school.  The required vaccinations included diphtheria, measles, poliomyelitis, smallpox, tetanus and whooping cough.  Also that same year, the Division of Health Services planning was organized June 1, following passage of Chapter 29 of the Public Acts, charged with developing a program of comprehensive health planning for Tennessee. 

Also in 1967, with the opening of a health department in Lewis  County, Tennessee had, for the first time, a health department in every county.

1968: Tennessee documented 20 cases of Typhoid in 1968. The Governor signs into law (April 4, 1968) the Tennessee Medical Assistance Act.  When it became effective May 21, 1969, Tennessee became the 41st state in the Union to initiate a Medicaid program.    Also in 1969: 

  • The birth rate for Tennesseans was 17.5 per 1,000 population.
  • Tennessee air pollution control regulations go into effect Aug. 9, 1969.  The Tennessee Department of Public Health’s Division of Air Pollution Control monitored air quality via 50 air sampling stations and mobile air testing laboratory.
  • Tennessee Medicaid – Title XIX program – is implemented to provide medical services to “categorically needy” individuals.
  • There were 21 cases of measles reported in Tennessee. 

1970: The Tennessee Legislature passes a bill requiring licensing of nursing home administrators.  That same year, a new regional office for the Tennessee Department of Public Health is opened in Lewisburg to effectively serve the 13 counties in the South Central Region.

1973:  WIC (Women, Infants and Children) supplemental feeding program started in 15 counties of Tennessee.

1974: Record low number of TB cases (854) prompts discussions to close all state-operated TB hospitals.

1976:  State participates in national effort to immunize against Swine Flu.

1977:  The General Assembly passes the Tennessee Child Passenger Protection Act of 1977, making Tennessee the first state in the nation to enact a law designed to protect passengers from death and serious injury.  It went into effect Jan. 1, 1978, and required parents to package or restrain children under age four in federally approved child restraint systems while riding in family owned vehicles on Tennessee streets and highways. 

1977: Epidemiology section involved in study of Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in Kingsport area.

1981:  Tennessee public health workers distributed  potassium iodide to residents within five miles of two TVA nuclear power plants, to protect against harmful effects of radiation. 

1982:  AIDS reporting in Tennessee begins (HIV reporting began in 1992).

1983: The Tennessee Department of Health has a name change to become the Department of Health and Environment.

1985: There are 49 tuberculosis deaths in Tennessee (compared to 1,072 in the 1936-1937 fiscal year).