IDPH 125th


In 1917, the State Board of Health was reorganized as the State Department of Public Health. Dr. C. St. Clair Drake, who had served as executive director of the board since 1914, became the first director of Illinois's new public health agency.

The adoption of a new civil administrative code in 1917 resulted in the reorganization of the State Board of Health into two departments, one devoted to sanitation and hygiene and the other to professional licensing matters. The State Department of Public Health was charged with a variety of sanitation and hygiene responsibilities and given an appropriation of nearly $500,000 for the first biennium, a sum far in excess of anything that had ever been granted to the State Board of Health.

An early expert in public relations, Dr. Drake popularized public health work in the state. One effort – the Better Baby Conference – allowed people to look through glassed openings at physicians and nurses busily engaged in examining babies. Soon, the exhibit was a common feature at local fairs and other community events, bringing its message of preventative medicine directly to thousands of mothers through personal contact. Other outreach efforts by Dr. Drake included a motion picture library from which health films were circulated throughout the state and "Health Promotion Week," which became an annual event.

A number of important laws that would affect the state's new health department were passed during Dr. Drake's tenure with the State Board of Health. In 1915, a satisfactory vital statistics statute was enacted, providing for the first time the legal machinery necessary to collect reasonably complete birth and death records. Another law authorized counties to levy a tax to be used for constructing and maintaining tuberculosis sanitaria. Still another law passed in 1915 provided for the establishment of local health districts in one or more adjacent towns or road districts, making it possible to levy taxes and to maintain modern local health organizations.

One of Dr. Drake's most important actions in 1915 was to revise the State Board of Health's rules and regulations concerning communicable disease. Since the board's very early days, there had been general rules requiring that certain epidemic diseases be reported, but there was no way to enforce them. Dr. Drake codified the rules and made a specific list of reportable diseases. He also set time limits in which the diseases should be reported.

Dr. Drake resigned as state director of public health in 1921.

The current director – Dr. John R. Lumpkin – has headed the agency since 1991. He is the first African American to hold the position and he has served the third longest tenure of any public health director.

Dr. Lumpkin's career in public health began with his appointment in 1985 as associate director of IDPH's Office of Health Care Regulation, which oversees the licensing, inspection and certification of health care facilities. In September 1990, Gov. James R. Thompson named him the Department's acting director. Four months later, newly elected Gov. Jim Edgar appointed him to the director's job. Dr. Lumpkin was reappointed to the post by Gov. George H. Ryan in January 1999.

As director, Dr. Lumpkin has overseen the creation of programs to deal with women's and men's health issues. He has guided improvements in information and technology, emergency medicine, infectious disease prevention and control, bioterrorism, immunizations, local health department coverage and the state's laboratory services. He has served as co-chair of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, been on the Governor's Health Care Reform Task Force and accompanied Gov. Ryan on humanitarian and trade missions to Cuba (1999) and South Africa (2000).

A Timeline of the Illinois Department of Public Health

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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