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Public Health Service History

1918: The First County nurse

While as a visiting nurse with the City of Red Wing, Miss Emma Peterson recognized a need to help rural school children and families of Goodhue County. Supported by a group of citizens interested in Public Health and assisted by the Red Wing Visiting Nurse Association, the County Board was petitioned to fund a County Nurse. The successful petition resulted in Miss Emma Peterson becoming the first Goodhue County Nurse.

In December of 1918, the Goodhue County Public Health Association was formed and adopted a resolution. The resolution called for the formation of the following committees to address health issues:

  • Community Group to make recommendations for health activities based on local needs.
  • School Health Committee to promote better health in the schools.
    Child Health Committee to focus on the health care needs of infants, preschool and school children.
  • Health Education Committee to promote better health in the adult population through health education.
  • Publicity Committee to generate more awareness of the Public Health Association activities.
  • Seal Sale Committee to assist with local health care fund raising. The Seal Sale Committee worked with the Minnesota Public Health Association to raise funds for local health care through the sale of Christmas Seals.

The Goodhue County Public Health Association received 55% of the funds raised through the sale of Christmas Seals. The funds were used for clinics and health education activities. This committee sold Christmas Seals until it was taken over by the National Tuberculosis Association.

After three years as he Goodhue County Nurse and nearly one year after the development of the Public Health Association, Miss Emma Peterson left nursing to start her family. After Miss Emma Peterson’s departure, the American Red Cross assumed the nursing duties in Goodhue County.

1927: Public Health Nurse of Goodhue Co. one of most Valued Officials

Goodhue County is one of the pioneers in the Public Health Nursing Movement of Minnesota.

In 1920, Miss Leola Ellis was hired as the Goodhue County Nurse. She later became known as the originator of the Goodhue County Nursing Service.

Miss Ellis served Goodhue County for 37 years. Starting with an annual budget of approximately $2,700, she visited 156 rural schools, started chest clinics for tuberculosis screenings, initiated immunization clinics, free dental clinics, eye testing for school children and developed milk-drinking programs.

Miss Ellis faithfully traveled miles to visit families stricken with illnesses. She often had to shovel her way in and out of snowdrifts and sometimes traveled by foot to help a family in need.

During the early days of Miss Ellis’ career, she worked intensively with Native Americans assisting with birth records, hospital and medical care. In addition, she worked with government allotments for food and clothing.

Miss Ellis conducted classes every year in the rural areas on prenatal care, infant care, preschool health, school health, tuberculosis, and general health.

1934: Immunizations Administered

In 1934 immunization programs began. In addition, the Mantoux (TB) test for Tuberculosis was initiated. All persons with positive reactions to the Mantoux test were taken to Mineral Springs Sanatorium for chest x-rays. Miss Ellis usually transported these individuals.

During this same year, Miss Ellis instituted hearing tests for all school children.

During World War II, Miss Ellis organized first aid classes throughout the County and helped with the Red Cross Nursing programs.



During the fifties, Miss Ellis participated in several surveys including polio, heart disease, cancer and Tuberculosis. The chest X-rays taken by mobile units to identify Tuberculosis resulted in the accreditation of Goodhue County for Tuberculosis Control in 1954.

When Miss Ellis retired in 1957, she received statewide recognition for her achievements.

1964: City & County Asked to Join on Nurses

In 1964, after the Red Wing Visiting Nurse Association was abandoned, Goodhue County and the City of Red Wing joined forces and jointly financed two nurses for the County. County and City officials believed “the City nurse should be continued as she can handle many cases in the homes which otherwise might have to be treated in institutions, at a substantial increase in costs to taxpayers of the County.”

1965: County Nurses to Charge Fees—Only for Those Able

A June 1965 article from the Republican Eagle read:

The Goodhue County Public Health Nursing board today announced that beginning Thursday, July 1, a fee will be charged for home nursing care provided by the County’s two public health nurses.

Mrs. Mary Lindahl, chief county health nurse, said most of the calls made by the nurses are to persons able and willing to pay. Offers of payment have been made in the past, but had to be declined.

It is expected the major portion of the money will go toward meeting any increased demand for nursing service.

Patients in need of home nursing care are referred to the agency by their doctor.

A fee system was established. The Board announced that the charge be based on the ability to pay and no one would be denied service because of the inability to pay. It was believed that persons who had avoided asking for nursing services because they thought of the free service as charity would now access nursing services.

In 1966, Medicare began. After becoming certified, the Nursing Service was reimbursed through Medicare for nursing and physical therapy services. Medicare included home health services, and so Goodhue County Nursing Service developed a program that met the requirements for reimbursement.

1967: Health Aides Help Elderly

In 1967, as part of the expansion of services under Medicare and the addition of homecare as part of the Medicare Health Aide Service began in Goodhue County. Hired on a part-time basis, 23 Home Health Aides began assisting seniors in Goodhue County with personal cares and daily activities.

1971: Dual-County Nursing Service Aids 910 Persons Last Year

From 1957 to 1971, Wabasha County had been without a nursing service. In 1971 Wabasha County combined with Goodhue County to form the Goodhue-Wabasha County Nursing Service.

County funds, in part, supported the cost of nursing, home health aide, and preventive health services provided to the citizens of Goodhue and Wabasha County.

1978: State Funds Community Health Services

State funded community health service grants for local public health agencies became available in 1976. Goodhue-Wabasha Community Health Service became the official name of the combined counties in 1978. At this time counties began to address Family Health, Home Health, Disease Prevention and Control, Environmental Health, Mental Health and Emergency Medical Services needs. To implement the expanded programs and services provided by Goodhue and Wabasha Community Health Service, four employees were added and the first CHS administrator was hired.

1988: Name Change to Emphasize Public Health Services

In 1988, Goodhue-Wabasha Community Health Service approved a new name: Public Health Service of Goodhue and Wabasha Counties (PHS). The purpose of the change was to emphasize the public health aspects of the organization.

1995: Public Health Board Approves $115,108 in Cuts

Seventy-five years after a lone public health nurse established a county nursing service with a $2,700 annual budget, Public Health Service of Goodhue and Wabasha Counties operates with a $3.6 million budget ($400,000 from Goodhue County taxes). The agency employs many full and part-time nurses, home health aides, environmental health specialists, technicians, a dental hygienist, a health educator, support staff, and administrative staff to meet the health care needs of county residents.

Traditional community health services focus on disease prevention and health promotion, the maintenance of persons with diseases or disabilities to reduce long term care costs, screenings for early identification of health problems and activities to promote a safe and healthy environment.

1999: Goodhue And Wabasha Counties Split

Due to changes in the unique characteristics and population growth in Goodhue and Wabasha Counties the Board of Health amicably divided in 1999. The division allowed each county to focus on the priority health needs of its county.

On December 31, 1999, Wabasha County withdrew from the July 1978 Joint Powers Agreement with Goodhue County and our name became Goodhue County Public Health Service. Although it continues to operate under the auspices of the Community Health Services Board per the Community Health Services Act requirements, Goodhue County Public Health Service is now part of the Goodhue County Government. The Community Health Services Board is comprised of 5 members who meet monthly to discuss and address the health needs of the citizens of Goodhue County. The five members of the Community Health Services board also serve as Goodhue County Commissioners.

2000: Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Commissioner Of Health Visits Red Wing

Jan Malcolm, State Health Commissioner, spoke in Red Wing during Public Health Awareness Week. Malcolm credited Dr. Charles Hewitt of Red Wing for launching the state's public health initiative in the late 1800's. She highlighted the great strides Public Health has made in the past 100 years including increasing life expectancy by 25 years, conquering disease and emphasizing the importance of sanitation.

In 2001…The events of September 11th significantly increased concern about the potential use of biological and chemical weapons by terrorists. On November 16th public health and emergency management personnel met with first responders and others, who would assist in recognizing and managing causalities from a biological or chemical incident, to identify issues, resources and needs for responding if such an event occurred locally.

Because of Public Health Achievements…

  • 30 years has been added to our average life expectancy this past century, from 47 to 76 years!
  • Vaccine-preventable diseases are down more than 97% from before vaccines were available.
  • 44% of all restaurants in Goodhue County offer smoke-free dining.
  • The elderly and disabled are living in their homes longer.
  • The cost of maintaining an elderly or disabled person in their home with home care services averages $600/mo. Compared to around $3500/mo. in a nursing home.

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