California was settled, in part, during the Gold Rush of 1849. The state grew rapidly as word spread around the world that this was a golden land. In many ways, the Gold Rush also led to the creation of the state’s public health system as we now know it. Cholera, smallpox, measles, mumps and other communicable diseases quickly spread through pioneer settlements and mining camps, causing nine of every 10 deaths to those who came to California seeking a better way of life.
In 1870, Dr. Thomas Logan became the first “state health officer” of the California Board of Health, becoming the second oldest health department in the nation. Their first public health challenge: fight cholera.
Today, with more than 38 million residents, California is the largest state to have its public health department
nationally accredited. Working with local health departments, state, federal and private partners, the work performed by CDPH touches our lives every day in every community in every corner of California.
That work happens around the clock and throughout the year. From protecting newborns through genetic screening to ensuring senior citizens’ golden years are safe by licensing care facilities. The doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers, public health professionals and staff of
CDPH’s more than 200 programs display their dedication to public service through our
core values: collaboration, competence, equity, integrity, respect, responsibility, trust and vision. They are passionate about their work and compassionate towards the people and communities they serve.
This website is filled with information about important public health issues, news about CDPH programs,
public health data and many other valuable resources. Browse these pages and learn how our department fulfills its mission of optimizing the health and well-being of the people in California.
On behalf of the entire CDPH staff, I look forward to working with you and your communities to improve the health of everyone who calls California home, and the millions who visit each year. Together, we can make California the healthiest state in the nation as we tackle the public health challenges of the 21st Century and beyond.
Karen Smith, MD, MPH
Director and State Public Health Officer
Biography of Karen Smith, MD, MPH