100 Years of Public Health in Arkansas

Agency Observes Century of Service

Little Rock — The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) marks a major milestone today. This year marks the 100th year since the Arkansas Board of Health was formed on February 25, 1913, when Governor Joe T. Robinson signed Act 96 of 1913.

“For 100 years, the Arkansas Department of Health has improved lives and life expectancy by reducing injury, disability, and disease for Arkansans,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “We thank them on this birthday, even though most of us will never fully realize the amount of illness and pain our Health Department has helped them avoid.”

Over the last 100 years, public health advancements — including controlling contagious diseases, immunizing children and adults, preventing infant deaths, providing good prenatal care to expectant moms, assuring safer food and drinking water — have added 25 years to the life expectancy in the United States.

Dr. Paul Halverson, Health Department director and state health officer, said, “When you look back at the health of Arkansans prior to 1913, you see diseases and living conditions that held average life expectancies to under 50 years. Unsafe drinking water and outdoor privies wreaked havoc on the health of our citizens. We had no statewide system in place to register a citizen’s birth or death.”

“But look at where we are now. Even though Arkansas ranks near the bottom of many health rankings, we have made progress in many areas. In my nearly eight years as health director, we’ve seen the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act, the creation of a statewide trauma system, the construction of a state-of-the-art public health laboratory, and the expansion of mass flu clinics and school flu clinics throughout the state. We will continue to strengthen our efforts to improve oral health and reduce obesity, tobacco use, chronic diseases, teen pregnancies and infant deaths. Public health professionals and our partners across our state are working hard every day to keep our hometowns healthy,” Halverson said.

To learn more about the history of ADH and to find a schedule of statewide events, visit

Contact: Office of Health Communications and Marketing
Ed Barham, 501-280-4147