History, Mission and Role of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment

β€œThe Barnstable County health department will be the first county health department established in New England. The precedent is of historic interest and is expected to prove of far-reaching practical importance.”United States Public Health Service Report on Co-operative Rural Health Work for 1925 – 1926

In 1926, the Massachusetts legislature, at the behest of the county commissioners and citizens of Cape Cod, passed enabling legislation to establish the Barnstable County Health Department. The Department began operations on January 1, 1927, with a health officer, a secretary, a sanitary inspector and assistant. In the winter 1927 edition of “Commonhealth”, the quarterly bulletin of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, A. P. Goff, the first Barnstable County health officer, authored an article about the Department’s future objectives in which he wrote:

β€œβ€¦ the immunization of young children against diphtheria, vaccination of all school children and others, and continued effective control by isolation and otherwise of communicable disease … the effective correction of defects found in school children … shellfish sanitation … regular inspections of food handling places, installation of proper dumping grounds and gradual introduction of sewer systems where necessary. Lastly we hope to test all cows on the Cape for tuberculosis: the majority have already been tested.”

Nearly a century later, with additional and wide-ranging responsibilities, the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment (BCDHE) continues to serve Cape Cod’s public health needs in the spirit of regional cooperation and innovation. Residents and visitors benefit from a range of services covering disease prevention and control, health and safety education, hazardous materials reporting, environmental protection, emergency preparedness, water quality monitoring, and more.

Over the history of the department, the following individuals have served as county health officers or department directors: A. P. Goff, MD, 1927 – 1946; Frederick L Moore, MD, 1947 – 1963; Mary Susich, RN, BS, MPH, 1964 -1971; Esther G. Howes, RN, MN, MS, 1972 – 1984; Stetson Hall, BS, RS, 1985 – 2002; George Heufelder, MS, RS, 2002 – 2016; Sean O’Brien, BS, RS, 2017 to present.

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