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Public Health History

image of the Roberts Mills building

The Robert Mills Building opened in 1828 as the sixth state supported mental asylum in the United States. The Mills Building became the home to DHEC Health Services central offices in 1988.

This history of public health in South Carolina is a fascinating story. Since the earliest days of the colonial period, people have worked together for the common good to confront deadly diseases. Before the discoveries of microbiology in the mid-1800s, quarantine and sanitation were the basic tools for preventing the spread of epidemic disease. Public health grew as a practical approach for protecting the health of the population. Advances in knowledge of the causes of disease and in the technology to prevent and treat diseases were applied in very practical ways. Changes in health status were often dramatic, when public health measures like pasteurization of milk, vaccination, improved water supply and wastewater disposal, or prenatal care were introduced.

The history lecture presented here in PowerPoint slides was developed as an overview of public health in South Carolina from its beginnings as an English colony in 1670 to the creation of the Department of Health and Environmental Control in 1973. Please pay particular attention to the links between health and environment, and to the changing perspectives on the causes and prevention of diseases. The story of public health shows how all our decisions have future consequences. These are sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes both. The decisions that solved yesterdays problems have changed South Carolina in fundamental ways, and sometimes contributed to today's problems.

Information for this site has been gleaned from agency reports, magazines, and photos, and through several hours in the South Carolina State Library perusing the annual reports of the department director to the General Assembly. Included here are: