From the archives hiding in the City Hall clock tower, the Minneapolis Health Department dug up a few mementos to help commemorate 150 years of work.

During a celebration Wednesday, posters titled “150 Years of Public Health in Minneapolis” decorated the City Hall rotunda, displaying historical photographs and notices, including pushing parents to take their children for a diphtheria shot. State and city health leaders, joined by several council members, outlined the department’s public health campaigns and successes over the years.

Though some public health efforts have changed over time — smallpox is now eradicated, and the city doesn’t have to rely on resident fly swatting to prevent the spread of disease — public health work has largely remained constant, said department Commissioner Gretchen Musicant.

“I think it speaks to the fundamental importance of health and public health to the city founders — and that commitment has continued over the years,” Musicant said.

About 40 representatives from local health groups attended the ceremony, where council members presented 10 groups with awards for their work in health promotion.

“It’s not about the medical or the professional intervention, but it’s about the broader role of the city in recognizing the range of our decisions around infrastructure, around planning, around housing, and how those impact the physical health of our residents,” Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said.


Jessie Bekker is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.