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Public Health Nursing has been an essential part of life in Alabama for more than a century. The birth of Public Health Nursing began in Mobile in 1874. Dr. Jerome Cochran, the County Health Officer, enlisted the services of a nurse to provide services in a house constructed for the care of individuals with smallpox. The model proved itself effective.

The Associated Charities in cooperation with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company took public health nursing to the next level when it established a visiting nurse program in Birmingham in 1910. Nurses began to work in industrial settings, Red Cross Town and Country services, tuberculosis programs, full time health departments, and schools. In 1919, the State Bureau of Nursing was created followed by the 1921 Shepard-Towner Act which incorporated maternity and infant hygiene into public health nursing. The Shepard-Towner act also provided funding for a health teacher to provide services to the Division of Exceptional Education at the State Department of Education during the summer months. By this time, public health nurses had become leaders in preventive health teaching as well as being, advocates, and care resources to the citizens of Alabama.

As public health nursing expanded, officials divided the state into geographical areas which would allow nurses to use their knowledge of community dynamics to serve the community in which they lived. The approach to care also became more family centered which improved the health status of the entire family. In 1966, the federal government established the third party reimbursement program through Title 18. This act separated services into two categories, clinic and home health services. Since that time, public health nursing has continued to grow expanding services and meeting the ever changing needs of the community. Public health nursing is dedicated to providing the highest level of skilled care with compassion. The Alabama Department of Public Health has over 550 nurses who provide care in Family Planning, WIC, Child Health, Tuberculosis, STD and Community Preventive Health Programs throughout the state.

Page last updated: May 13, 2021