APHL Annual Meeting
Objective: This study traced the history of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) since inception in April 1913 to the present time. The significance of knowing the laboratory’s history not only centered around legacy knowledge for the laboratory, but also provided important information on the history of how public health grew and was enforced in Nebraska, especially concerning reportable diseases and specimen collection. Study Design: The historical survey used mostly primary source documents including field notes from public health inspectors, disease reporting databases collected by the state health department and a variety of government documents pertaining to guidelines surrounding reportable diseases and procedures for specimen collection and proper testing techniques. The annual reports of the State Department of Health were also examined. Results: Deciphering the history of the NPHL was challenging but much was learned regarding the role the laboratory played in the process of public health in Nebraska. The correlation of significant health occurrences (e.g. the rise of polio in 1952, the importance of tuberculosis in the state highlighted by a 1939 study) with reporting/laboratory activities was done which showed how these topics have always, and will continue to be, the confirmation health officials need when making appropriate decisions about the public’s health. Conclusions: The challenges of tracing a laboratory’s history are many and can prove to be a difficult puzzle to solve. However, the knowledge obtained with this research can provide insight into the importance of the role the public health laboratory had played. With new diseases appearing and old ones emerging, the laboratory will continue to play a significant role in the future of the public’s health.
Watkins, Kristin; Sambol, Anthony R.; and Iwen, Peter C., "Research Methods and Primary Sources: Writing the History of your Public Health Laboratory" (2011). History of the College of Public Health: Papers and Posters. Paper 2.