Joan Adam, Secretary of Health
South Dakota Department of Health


125 Years of Health in South Dakota - Milestones

Fellow South Dakotans,

     As we celebrate the 125th year of statehood for South Dakota, it is important to reflect on those individuals who, through the decades, have helped make this a great state. At the Department of Health we are particularly interested in noting those who have played key roles in advancing the health of the citizens of our state. In the coming weeks we will be featuring some of those individuals on this site along with key health-related milestones. Any such listings will inevitably be incomplete but it is our hope that these brief snapshots will introduce South Dakotans to some of the health pioneers whose efforts have helped create the quality of life we enjoy today.

Doneen Hollingsworth

Secretary of Health
February 2014


  • The cancer data collection system was established, a precursor to the current South Dakota Cancer Registry.

  • Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy programs were added to the University of South Dakota’s offerings.

  • Laws were passed concerning education about and the subsidy of mammograms.

  • In June, President George H. Bush announced that South Dakota was one of six pilot states nationwide chosen to implement a new goal to immunize 2-year-old children from the present 50-60% immunized to 90% immunized by the year 2000.



  • The Legislature required that early childhood programs be added to the 1971 school entry law that required all children entering school for the first time to be immunized for preventable diseases.

  • Governor George S. Mickelson introduced “South Dakota Lifestyles,” a wellness newsletter for state employees.

  • HEP (Health Education and Promotion) began the “State Health Program” to promote awareness of the many aspects of wellness.

  • “Health 2000,” which was developed to meet the health care needs of South Dakotans for the next decade, received support from the Legislature.

  • In an effort to help rural hospitals in South Dakota, the Department of Health identified the most “access-critical” hospitals in the state and those at risk of closure.


(Exercise class at the old Lutheran Normal School

in Sioux Falls, date unknown.

South Dakota State Historical Society)

  • The Emergency Medical Services Advisory Commission was appointed to enhance ambulance service in the state.

  • The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Task Force was appointed to develop a statewide plan to address ARDD (Alcohol Related Developmental Disabilities).

  • The South Dakota state buildings went smoke-free in November.

  • The Health Care Commission, appointed by Governor George S. Mickelson, was established to make recommendations on health care reforms.


  • The Physician Assistant Program was started at the USD (University of South Dakota) School of Medicine with the first students graduating in 1995.

  • The pamphlet Common Questions and Answers about Hantavirus was printed and distributed.


  • Doneen Hollingsworth became the Secretary of the Department of Health and has continued to serve in this position to the present time.


  • A new state Public Health Laboratory was constructed in Pierre.

  • The Legislature approved of the sharing of immunization information electronically between health care providers and the State Department of Health as needed.

  • The Midlevel Tuition Reimbursement Program for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners was established to help rural communities recruit PAs and NPs.

  • The South Dakota Hospital Association was renamed SDAHO (South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations).

SD Public Health Laboratory

(The new State Public Health Laboratory was constructed in 1996. The old lab was

converted to office space and now houses the department's administrative offices, 2013.

South Dakota Department of Health photo)


  • The last case of membranous pharyngitis diphtheria in South Dakota was reported.

  • South Dakota experienced a measles outbreak with eight cases reported.

  • The All Women Count program received its initial funding to help enhance women’s health through screenings for breast and cervical cancer.
  • The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 was passed requiring parents’ social security number be collected through the birth certificate which impacted the workload of the Division of Vital Statistics because it entailed a great deal more recordkeeping.


  • The Legislature passed a law requiring children five years of age and younger to be in a car seat.

  • The annual School Height Weight Survey was established with schools voluntarily participating and providing student height and weight data to track childhood obesity. The survey has expanded, with data submitted on more than 50,800 children in 2013.

  • The national Master Settlement Agreement was signed on November 23, which enabled South Dakota to acquire tobacco settlement funds.


  • The Legislature passed a law requiring all new and transfer students be vaccinated with the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine before entry to a South Dakota school.

  • A new law established the crime of criminal exposure to HIV.

  • The Legislature created a tobacco prevention and cessation program as well as a tobacco trust fund within the Department of Human Services.

  • The Department of Health established a system of sentinel physicians in key locations throughout the state to provide for early detection of influenza and undertook efforts to address the issues caused by the prediction of severe delays in the deliveries of the influenza vaccines.

  • The new Office of Health Promotion was established during the reorganization of the Division of Health and Medical Services.