8 over California and around the country have really learned and become aware of the importance of collaborating.” The new millennium brought a continued focus on chronic disease, including an emphasis on childhood obesity and social isolation as a more sedentary, plugged-in population developed. The legalization of marijuana and annual threat of wildfires were two topics the MCHD grew to embrace. The department now registers medical marijuana cards for patients and helps hospitals respond to environmental disasters. Of course, the recent COVID-19 pandemic kept public health front and center for years – an unexpected position for this under-the-radar department, said Melton. “Public health has worked almost entirely behind the scenes. People are unaware of it and take it for granted,” said Melton, describing such wide- ranging services as animal control, conservatorships and restaurant inspections as responsibilities of the MCHD. Dr. Edward Moreno serves as the current Health Officer and Director of Public Health for Monterey County. The department has grown to a budget size of nearly $46 million – quite a leap from the start-up investment of $5,000 one century ago. Moreno oversees programs implemented by 213 employees fanning out across the county to help families afford groceries with the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. Others deliver anti-bullying programs in schools. Public health workers test for potential water contamination and safely dispose of syringes. “Public Health offers services at our main offices in Salinas. However, we don’t stop there. We also bring services to schools, homes, businesses, and other locations across the county. Public Health provides an array of services that are as diverse as the communities we serve,” said Dr. Moreno. “Public Health is credited with adding 25 years to the life expectancy of people in the United States.” As the MCHD embarks on its next 100 years, Melton explained a continued need for community-level education not only about health issues but also about cooperation. “The challenges for the future are public understanding of how science saves lives,” said Melton. “It always surprises me how people are unaware of the activity going on and unaware of what a difference (MCHD) has made in life expectancy. What is needed now is public cooperation for the public good.” Public Health 1947 California begins sending consistent state funding to local health departments for the first time 1944 The Public Health Service Act modernizes public health in America, including raising standards for sanitary and professional healthcare environments