In 1877 the Colorado State Board of Health was established by Colorado’s first General Assembly. The board was charged with the control of epidemics and contagious disease, the collection and study of vital statistics as a means of determining the causes of illness and death, and advice on proper sources of water supplies and places of sewage disposal. Their first vital statistics report showed that 24.7% of deaths were from consumption-also known as tuberculosis (possibly due to the fact that Colorado had a reputation as a healthful spot for the treatment of that same disease), 7.8% from diphtheria, 5.4% from scarlet fever and pneumonia and 5% from heart disease.
In 1893 local boards of health were established. Public health at local levels was strengthened by public health nursing throughout the state in the late 1880s and early 1900s. The evolution of public health nursing involved the American Red Cross, the Visiting Nurse Association and the Colorado Tuberculosis association.
Despite the existence of a State Board of Health, in 1918 when the flu epidemic hit, the state suffered a lack of funding. In fact, the State Health Department was so underfunded that year that they had to commandeer an appropriation dedicated to controlling venereal disease to fill the gap. In 1918 the state spent more to control livestock disease then they did on the State Board of Health.
It appears the American Red Cross Northern Colorado chapter, which was founded in March, 1917, provided the medical oversight for the response to the epidemic in Larimer County. They had formed to aid families impacted by the war, but their work load doubled in 1918 as they responded to the pandemic. They organized hospitals in cooperation with the Agricultural College. There were also hospitals at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Ft. Collins and in Wellington. In the aftermath they held health clinics and their health programs strengthened through the 1920s.
The Larimer County Public Health Association was organized in 1920, for the sole purpose of aiding those who couldn’t obtain proper medical or dental treatment. In 1920 a Ft. Collins doctor visit cost $1.50, a night visit was $5.00.
In 1925 the Larimer County Hospital was opened, just outside the city limits and was “deeply appreciated by residents when it arrived, following the devastating influenza epidemic of 1918-19”. It cost $175,000 to build and served 14,500 patients in it’s first year of operation. The hospital expanded through the years and became Poudre Valley Hospital in 1950. (Side note-two of our HLC board members were born here!).