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


  • South Dakota had one of the highest participation rates of being vaccinated during the influenza (swine flu) outbreak with 270,000 doses administered in two months.

  • “The Health Status of South Dakotans: A Preliminary Profile” was conducted by the South Dakota Department of Health to help establish health status goals for the state.


Gov Kneip getting swine flu shot

(Gov. Richard Kneip gets vaccinated for the swine flu, 1976.

South Dakota State Historical Society)


(Associate nursing program students view
an elctrocardiogram
, 1970.

USD Archives and Special Collections)


  • Five additional public health staff members were hired to administer approximately 135,000 doses of vaccines against childhood diseases to schoolchildren during the 1977-78 school year.

  • The USD (University of South Dakota) Medical School graduated its first Doctors of Medicine.

  • The Crippled Children Services under the auspices of the Department of Health changed its title to the Children’s Comprehensive Health Care Services and sought to identify children with health issues as well as to develop comprehensive treatments.


  • The Legislature revised the Certificate of Need Law.


  • By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Health Department had grown to over 250 full-time employees with a budget of more than $6 million before the recession caused many cutbacks.

  • The county certified home care programs became part of the state Community Health Nursing Program shifting the nurses who had been county employees to becoming state employees.

  • The SDSU (South Dakota State University) Nurse Practitioner Program was established.


  • The Public Health Advisory Council was abolished.

  • This was the only pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, free year in a century.

  • The Developmental Screening Follow-Up Program was established to provide developmental assessments of infants.


  • The Community Health Nursing Program and the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)  Program implemented WIC service to the 49 counties that contracted with Community Health Nursing.

  • The South Dakota Department of Health contracted to have a study done entitled, “South Dakota Tribal Specific Long Term Care Assessment.”

(Dr. Cassandra Matustik, Pediatric Endocrinologist,

examines child while mother looks on, circa 1980.

South Dakota State Historical Society)

(Joyce Cheeseman, Nutritionist, assesses nutritional
status of child with his mother, circa 1980

South Dakota State Historical Society)


  • The suicide rate in the state reached a high of 13.75 per 100,000 people.


  • The Community Health Nursing Program implemented the SSI-DCP (Supplemental Security Income-Disabled Children’s Program) and the SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Program to provide coordinated services to children with severe handicaps and to provide counseling to families who suffered a loss of a child from sudden infant death syndrome.


  • South Dakota reported its first AIDS case.

  • Of South Dakota high school seniors, 20.73% had used illicit drugs other than marijuana in their lifetime, about half the national rate of 40.0%, according to a study done by the South Dakota Department of Health.


  • South Dakota had only 29 cases of tuberculosis reported compared to 2000 cases in 1951.

  • There were 155 South Dakota resident infant deaths (13.3 per 1,000 live births), which was the first time since 1977 that South Dakota infant mortality exceeded the national rate of 10.4.


  • The South Dakota Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) was initiated to monitor health risk behaviors of adult South Dakota residents.

  • The Maternal and Child Health Program opened a family planning clinic in Sioux Falls in April.

  • Only 11% of South Dakotans used seat belts, causing a health concern for the Department of Health.



  • The Certificate of Need requirements for health care facilities and development was repealed by the Legislature with the decision to place a moratorium on construction of new nursing home and supervised personal care beds.

  • The Physician Tuition Reimbursement Program was established to help rural communities recruit physicians.

  • In cooperation with the Department of Social Services, Community Health Nursing implemented a pre-admission assessment program for all individuals seeking admission to a nursing home.

  • The State Department of Health hosted the first Governor’s Conference on Youth at Risk.

  • Over the previous two years the Department of Health developed an AIDS prevention and surveillance project.

(Students in anatomy lab studying cat skeleton, 1950s.

USD Archives and Special Collections)

  • “Healthwise,” a health promotion program with screenings and classes for state employees and their spouses, was established.
  • Governor George S. Mickelson set in place a smoke-free policy in non-designated areas in State buildings and buildings the State uses to create healthier workplaces.
  • The Legislature gave the Department of Health authority to manage animals which may have exposed humans or their pets to rabies.

  • In cooperation with the Board of Charities and Corrections, a substance abuse program was established to meet the needs of chemically dependent people in the correctional institutions.

  • South Dakota was recognized at the National Immunization Conference as a model for other states for requiring influenza vaccinations for nursing home residents.

  • South Dakota had no nursing shortage with 6,167 Registered Nurses and 2,431 Licensed Practical Nurses with active licenses.


  • The Health Department had over 300 staff members and a budget in excess of $21,000,000.

  • Governor George S. Mickelson created the Office of Rural Health.

  • A total of 1,461 South Dakotans died as a result of cancer, the highest number over the previous 20 years.


  • The Legislature voted to have the Department of Health and the Board of Nursing establish rules regarding nurse aide registration.

  • Governor George S. Mickelson made rural health a top state priority.

  • The first measles case was recorded in more than a decade.

  • South Dakota’s first Governor’s Conference on Children with Special Needs was held.

  • Significantly fewer South Dakota adults were at risk for lack of seat belt use in 1990 than in 1987.

  • The South Dakota Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System report stated that 63.6% of the survey respondents lived within five miles of their health care professional, 18.5% lived with six to twenty miles and 13.5% lived 21 to 60 miles away.