Florida Public Health

The Florida Capitol Museum Exhibit is celebrating 125 years of Florida public health and it tells the story of the evolution of Florida's state public health agency and its impact on the daily lives of Floridians.

According to www.flhistoriccapitol.gov, public health touches all aspects of a person's life starting with a birth certificate and ending with a death certificate. Students can visit the museum if they would like to learn about the history of Florida Public Health. The museum presents multiple displays of artifacts and poster boards filled with information about diseases and sanitation that visitors can read on.

Emily Fee, education coordinator of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, explained what is talked about at the museum and their goal in regards to Florida Public Health.

“We get to talk about all three branches of government so we’re a great tool for civic education,” Fee said. “We’re free and completely open to the public three-hundred and 63 days a year and our goal is to make sure that Florida political history is assessable and learn about Florida Public Health and how that is a service the state provides and helps improve the lives of Floridians.”

Yellow Fever was a devastating disease in Florida and a terrible epidemic of in Jacksonville, Fla. It initiated the State Board of Health’s creation and there were over 4,700 cases of Yellow Fever in the city and 430 people died in the city with a population of about 17,000.

Lisa Barton, Florida Historic Capitol Museum Exhibits manager said that the State Board of Health was established in 1889 created by the Florida legislature as a response to Yellow Fever.

“Yellow Fever was a devastating disease that was rampant in Florida in the 18th and 19th centuries, it affected port cities a lot, Key West was often stricken with Yellow Fever and had a high mortality rate and was devastating to a lot of families,” Barton said.

According to Barton a certain type of mosquito was the cause in the spreading of Yellow Fever and once health officials found that out then the disease was irradiated, but before then people were being quarantined businesses were closed and traveling was not easy Mosquitos also carried a deadly disease known as Malaria.

“It was a big public health problem in the early nineteen hundreds so the State Board of Health really encouraged the people, cities and town to do what they could to irradiate mosquitos’ things like draining any standing water,” said Barton

Barton also provided information on the mid-wives that were in the southern U.S. According to Barton during the time of segregation even though few hospitals existed, black women still were not allowed to deliver the child in them because of segregation. This then lead to black women having to become mid-wives and delivering babies themselves.

“Florida had between the twenties and thirties three to four thousand midwives and the majority was African American women because of segregation and discrimination there weren’t a lot of black positions able to deliver babies in the hospitals,” Barton said.

According to Barton, the Black Plague was terrible since it took many lives of individuals.

“It wiped out 25 percent of the population of Europe in the fourteen maybe 13 hundreds so historically that was devastating,” Barton said.

Barton also expressed how she felt about the Ebola situation, and she is confidence that it will be secure.

“I do feel confident that public health officials will contain that, they have so much knowledge about how to do it; we obviously know how it’s transmitted and we have the health care system in place,” Barton said .

The Department of Health is focused on abundance amount of problems, but according to Barton obesity is the main focus at the moment.

“Overall they’re focused on healthiest weight, obesity can cause so many health problems diabetes heart disease on and on and on the problems that come about being overweight,” Barton said.

Barton also mentioned that the Department of Health has started programs to encourage people to move more, sit less, eat their colors and have an overall healthy lifestyle to combat the obesity epidemic.

When visitors leave the museum Barton said that she hopes that they have gained some type of knowledge and would share what they have learned with others along with encouraging them to visit the museum.

“I hope they understand after seeing the exhibit and seeing the artifacts what an important role public health professionals have played in Florida,” Barton said.

Janet Jones, a retired elementary school teacher from Tallahassee Fla., said that it was her first time visiting the museum and it was very interesting.

“I like the fact that the museum has multiple exhibits for things that happened in Florida. My favorite exhibit actually was the public health exhibit, because I was able to learn about the different diseases such as Malaria and Yellow Fever,” Barnes said.

For more information you can contact the Florida Historic Capitol Museum at 850-487-1902. The business hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free and donations are accepted and 100 percent is used to support education, exhibits and volunteer programs.