6 corners, which Melton describes as “a big county of small communities.” “The 1920s really was a great era in public health nursing because they were doing things no one else was doing,” he said. “They were out in the field all the time.” Containing communicable disease remained the top priority for the MCHD from its earliest days through the 1950s. Before vaccines and antibiotics, threats from infectious disease made a short life expectancy an accepted fact of life. “Communicable diseases were the threat from the Spanish period all the way through the 1950s. They were everywhere and on everybody’s mind,” said Melton, who ranked the eradication of communicable diseases like polio, smallpox, and tuberculosis during this era as one of the best achievements of public health. Monterey County operated a robust public health lab throughout this communicable disease era, even investing big to retrofit the lab for safe testing of tuberculosis cultures. The lab has evolved considerably since, now completing water safety testing and risky evaluations of animals for traces of rabies. Monterey remains one of the few counties in California dedicated to maintaining a budget for their lab. Half of the state’s public health laboratory facilities have closed since 1980, according to Melton. “Public health labs have been rare since the 1950s,” said Smith. “Most are closed down because (counties) can’t afford to keep them open unless it’s a big city.” As infectious disease risk lowered with the introduction of coordinated vaccination campaigns and widespread antibiotics, the MCHD transitioned to a new purpose: educating Monterey County residents about the risks of long-term health concerns. Dr. Melton entered the MCHD in the early 1980s, but the department he inherited represented an organization largely operating like it was still the 1950s. It became clear the county’s needs had shifted from communicable disease to chronic disease, he said. In 1982 MCHD expanded the Health Promotion division and received significant grant funding and national recognition for its work on anti-tobacco campaigns and awareness around seatbelts and car seats. Even local celebrity Clint Eastwood got involved with the MCHD, starring in a commercial about Public Health Public Health provides an array of services that are as diverse as the communities we serve. – Dr. Edward Moreno 1930 1930 The National Institute of Health (NIH) begins 1930s Monterey County labor camps filled with a diverse immigrant farmworker labor force prompt community-level efforts to control infectious disease. Public health nurses provided on-the-ground care in the forgotten corners of Monterey County.