4 The County of Monterey Health Department celebrates 100 years this year, commemorating a vibrant history responding to the ever-changing needs of county residents. Dr. Robert Melton served as Director of Health Services and Health Officer for the County of Monterey Health Department from 19822001 and his perspective on the department’s history is insightful. “(First) the health department primarily did things for people. Then we did things to people,” Melton said. “Now we do things with people.” Through these distinctive eras and still today, the County of Monterey Health Department’s deep connections across its sprawling 3,700 square miles of service area continue to promote a healthy and thriving community for everyone. The County of Monterey Health Department’s official beginnings trace back to 1923, when $5,000, one part-time doctor and one parttime nurse embraced the task of elevating the overall health of the entire county, says Karen Smith, the MCHD’s Public Information Officer for the last 17 years. A lot of people don’t understand that public health is focused on the community while regular health care relates to the individual,” Smith said. “While we may do individual things, the purpose of public health is to create a healthier community so that people flourish.” Well before the official foundations of the MCHD 100 years ago, Melton discovered evidence of a concern for community health way back in records from the 1700s. “They cared about mental health in 1780. They were writing about it,” said Melton. He describes a journal entry where a Surgeon General in Monterey’s early Spanish colonial era attributed the “high frequency of insanity” to Monterey County’s “overstimulating climate.” “People weren’t that different in what they thought about and worried about,” Melton said. As Monterey County entered the 19th century, public health prioritized projects like establishing sanitary sewer systems, building landfills, and standardizing drinking water. As germ theory, or the 1920 Public Health 1920s Science-backed clinics run by city health departments begin to take shape across the country, providing medical care and health education. Immunizations begin to reduce death rates from typhoid and diphtheria but others, like tuberculosis, are not yet understood