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The oldest county health department in the state will celebrate its 75th anniversary today.

With the assistance of a $2,000 grant from the Milbank Foundation, an anniversary celebration is planned for 11 a.m. in the Cattaraugus County Center on Lincoln Avenue.

A program of speakers includes Public Health Director Susan R. Bubbs, Legislature Chairman Gerard J. Fitzpatrick, Dr. Leo B. Moss, a 50-year employee of the Health Department; former Assemblywoman Patricia K. McGee, state Health Department officials, James H. Campbell, regional director, Dennis P. Whalen, executive deputy commissioner, and Daniel M. Fox, president of the Milbank Memorial Fund.

Ms. Bubbs explained that in 1923 the department became "the first county health department in the state and one of the first in the country."

Prior to that time, she said, "Cattaraugus, like all rural counties in the state, had no general county health organization. Each city, town and village had its part-time health officer, and each school had a part-time medical inspector and no coordinated health system."

One of the county's first efforts was in 1916, when it built the Rocky Crest Sanatorium on Route 16 south of Olean for tuberculosis patients. A public-health nurse was assigned to work there.

In 1922, the Milbank Memorial Fund awarded the county a grant to "demonstrate whether by intensive application of known health measures the extent of sickness could be further and materially diminished and mortality rates further and substantially reduced," Mrs. Bubbs said.

Today, many of those original health programs are still in place such as communicable diseases, laboratory diagnosis, tuberculosis, statistical records and reports, maternity, infant and child hygiene and health education.

To meet changing health needs, other programs have been included such as emergency medical services, environmental health, preventive health care, early intervention and HIV testing.

"We are successful when nothing happens," Mrs. Bubbs said. "Every day a baby is born healthy, a child is adequately immunized, diners don't contract food poisoning at a restaurant, well water is not contaminated by sewage, someone decides to eat more leafy vegetables, then public health is successful."

The department has offices in Olean, Little Valley, Machias and Salamanca.

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