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Minnesota Agencies

Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Health Board

Also known as:
State Board of Health
Active dates:1872-1977

The state board of health shall place themselves in communication with the local boards of health, the hospitals, asylums, and public institutions throughout the state, and shall take cognizance of the interests of health and life among the citizens generally. They shall make sanitary investigations and inquiries respecting the cases of disease, especially of epidemics; the source of mortality and the effects of localities, employments, conditions, and circumstances on the public health; and they shall gather such information in respect to these matters as they may deem proper for diffusion among the people. They shall devise some scheme whereby medical and vital statistics of sanitary value may be obtained and act as an advisory board to the state in all hygienic and medical matters, especially such as relate to the location, construction, sewerage, and administrations of prisons, hospitals, asylums, and other public institutions. They shall at each annual session of the legislature make a report of their doings, investigations, and discoveries, with such suggestions as to legislative action as they may deem proper. They shall also have charge of all matters pertaining to quarantine, and authority to enact and enforce such measures as may be necessary to the public health.

Succeeded by:

Minnesota became the fourth state to establish a state board of health in 1872, preceded by Massachusetts, California, and Virginia. Originally located in Red Wing at the office of the first secretary of the board of health, Dr. Hewitt, the labs were moved to the University of Minnesota campus in 1893. The following year the offices of the board were moved to the Pioneer Building in St. Paul. In 1902 the legislature appropriated funds for a laboratory animal house and additional space was provided in 1907 in what is now the university's psychology building.

The dissolution of the State Health Board was first proposed in 1975, and made official in 1977. According to Minn. Stat. 144.011, "all powers and duties of the board are transferred to the commissioner of health." The first Commissioner of Health was Warren Lawson, appointed by Governor Rudy Perpich.

The Minnesota Department of Health hired Elisabeth Emerson to write a second history of public health in Minnesota. "Public Health is People: History of the Minnesota Department of Health from 1949 to 1999" chronicles public health in Minnesota from the years 1949 to 1999. It picks up where an earlier work left off: "The People's Health: A History of Public Health in Minnesota to 1948" by Philip D. Jordan (available in print).


As of 1967, 9 members; 3-year terms; senate confirmation not required.

Agency heads:

Secretary of the State Board of Health: Charles N. Hewitt, 1872-1897; Henry M. Bracken, 1897-1919; Charles E. Smith, 1919-1921; Albert J. Chesley, 1921-?

Note: The Legislative Reference Library may have additional reports on or by this group available through our catalog.
News clippings and documents. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1958-2012.
Record last updated: 05/20/2020

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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