Southern Nevada Health District: The First 50 Years

This year the Southern Nevada Health District celebrates 50 years of protecting and promoting the health of Clark County residents and visitors. Learn about our humble beginnings, as well as our public health successes, challenges and evolution over five decades.

1962-06-05 10:46:05

Clark County Health District begins operations

The Clark County Health District is formed after authorization by the 1959 Nevada State Legislature. It is housed in a temporary structure built as an Army Medical Station during World War II.

1963-07-15 10:46:05

Board appoints Chief Health Officer

Dr. Otto Ravenholt becomes Clark County’s first board appointed Chief Health Officer. He serves until 1998.

1963-11-01 10:46:05

Food handlers program is established

Clark County Ordinance 186 establishes a requirement for a food handlers program. A traveling “medicine show” moves from hotel to hotel providing a two-hour program of films, lectures and demonstrations to educate food handlers on the importance of food safety.

1964-01-04 15:55:55

Shadow Lane Facility Ground Breaking

Dignitaries break ground for the facility still located at 625 Shadow Lane. A bond issue to finance construction of the new health center was presented to voters in October 1963 and was approved by a substantial margin.

1964-04-01 10:46:05

Smoking and lung cancer linked

The U.S. Surgeon General first reports the link between smoking and lung cancer.

1964-07-01 14:41:34

District becomes repository for vital records

The health district becomes the local repository for birth and death certificates in Clark County. This eliminates the need for residents to order records through the state office in Carson City.

1965-01-01 10:46:05

Dr. Ravenholt goes to Washington, D.C.

President Johnson invites Dr. Ravenholt to the White House.

1965-04-12 10:46:05

Family planning program opens

The first birth control (family planning) clinic opens in Clark County with a budget of $23,000. Services include contraception and counseling to those wishing to plan for the size of their family.

1965-12-04 05:12:43

Officials dedicate the new Shadow Lane facility

The district opens its new 48,000 square foot health center on Shadow Lane. In keeping with the “wild west” theme of Las Vegas, the $850,000 structure is shaped like half of a wagon wheel with the circular lobby and its information area forming the hub. The building also houses the coroner’s office and the county air pollution control staff.

1966-04-01 05:12:43

Air Pollution Division opens

The Air Pollution Division is created to combat automobile emissions, industry smoke stacks and open burning. After 35 years at the health district, the program moves to the county and becomes the Department of Air Quality.

1966-07-01 05:12:43

Home health program begins services

The Home Health Program is established to provide skilled nursing care through physician referrals for the acute and chronically ill. Home health care includes injections, wound care, supervision of medications or management of disease or disabilities.

1966-07-01 05:12:43

OSHA Created

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is created.

1971-01-01 21:11:44

Preventing disease among school children

The Nevada state legislature passes a mandate requiring immunizations before children enter school.

1972-01-01 21:11:44

EMS program is established

The Emergency Medical Services program opens to promote better quality and coordination of emergency medical services in Clark County.

1972-01-01 21:11:44

Addiction clinic opens

The addiction treatment clinic opens for opiate addicts. Counselors assist patients with individual problems and provide guidance for improving interpersonal relationships. Referrals are provided for employment or legal problems. Treatment is provided for a fee.

1974-01-01 21:11:44

Shadow Lane facility expands

The Shadow Lane building is expanded by 11,000 feet to provide relief from the congestion caused by the increased demand for services.

1974-12-01 19:04:53

Government ensures safe water

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act is established.

1975-09-01 19:04:53

Affirmative action program approved

The District Board of Health approves a new affirmative action program to reaffirm the district’s commitment to a policy of equal employment opportunity.

1975-09-01 19:04:53

Smallpox is eradicated

Smallpox is declared eradicated worldwide due to mass vaccination campaigns. Smallpox vaccination was first attempted in the 18th century.

1978-02-01 19:04:53

Satellite public health centers open

The first neighborhood public health center opens in North Las Vegas, followed later in the year by a second facility in Henderson.

1978-07-01 19:04:53

School inspections begin

The health district begins routine sanitation inspections of all schools located in Clark County.

1979-07-01 19:04:53

Hospice program established

The health district establishes the hospice program for incurably ill patients, which is aimed at alleviating the pain and symptoms of disease along with the fear, anger and worry associated with terminal illness. Care is administered under the direction of the patient’s doctor, and anyone in need, regardless of income, is eligible for care.

1980-11-21 19:04:53

MGM fire kills 84 people

A fire at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino breaks out and kills 84 people; most die from smoke inhalation. The event remains among Nevada’s most deadly disasters. Three months later an arson fire erupts at the Las Vegas Hilton killing eight people. Following these fires, changes in fire safety regulations are implemented that have made Southern Nevada high-rise hotel/casinos among the safest in the world.

1981-06-05 19:04:53

HIV/AIDS emerges

The CDC publishes its first report about what becomes known as HIV/AIDS. The report recounts illness in five young, previously healthy gay men in Los Angeles. Since then, the HIV/AIDS death toll tallies 575,000 in the U.S., and more than 3,400 in Clark County.

1983-03-01 19:04:53

First case of AIDS in Clark County

The first known case of AIDS is diagnosed in Clark County. The patient, who suffers from pneumocystis pneumonia, is admitted to the hospital and dies a few days later. The health district contacts the CDC and learns the same pneumonia syndrome has been identified in a group of people in Los Angeles. Mid-year, the director of nursing and chief health officer agree to assign the first health district staff member to work with AIDS patients.

1984-07-01 19:04:53

Cause of AIDS is discovered

In the spring, HTLV-3 is identified as the cause of AIDS and leads to the development of the HIV antibody test.

1985-01-01 19:04:53

District offers HIV testing

The health district begins to offer HIV blood testing during the summer. Results take seven to 14 days. A year later the health district’s HIV/AIDS clinic opens and provides evaluation and referrals for people who test positive. Clients are referred to the limited resources available in the community.

1988-06-01 19:04:53

Laughlin Public Health Center opens

The health district begins health card and immunization services in Laughlin, 90 miles south of Las Vegas. Laughlin is Nevada’s third most visited casino and resort destination.

1997-01-01 19:04:53

East Las Vegas Public Health Center opens

The health district begins offering services to clients in East Las Vegas.

1997-07-01 19:04:53

Body piercing regulations are enforced

Health district regulations governing tattoo/permanent makeup establishments expand to include body piercing. Regulations are among the strictest in the country to ensure safety and health of workers and patrons.

1998-05-09 19:04:53

New Chief Health Officer is appointed

Dr. Donald Kwalick is named the district’s second Chief Health Officer, following Otto Ravenholt’s retirement. Kwalick serves until 2007.

1998-08-01 19:04:53

Office of Epidemiology is established

The Office of Epidemiology works with the Nursing and Environmental Health Divisions to respond to disease outbreaks. It also performs disease surveillance and investigations of reportable diseases.

1999-03-01 19:04:53

The Public Information Office is formed

To manage increasing media interest and better coordinate the information disseminated to the public, the district forms a public information office. Within 10 years, the office grows to include services such as video filming and editing, graphic design and copywriting, media relations, community outreach, and volunteer management.

1999-07-01 19:04:53

Website launches

The health district launches its first ever website. In 10 years, the website is re-launched with a new name, The site now averages 3 million page views per year. The district manages four other websites:,, and

2000-03-02 19:04:53

Fluoride enters Clark County water supply

Fluoride is added to the county’s drinking water. However, state legislation stipulates that a ballot issue be presented to voters on Nov. 7, 2000 in order to provide residents the opportunity to decide whether they want optimal, recommended levels of the mineral to remain in the municipal water supply. Ultimately, residents vote to continue fluoridation.

2001-09-11 19:04:53

9/11 Terrorist Attack

Terrorists attack in New York City, Washington, DC and Shanksville, PA.

2001-09-20 19:04:53


In September and October, letters with anthrax are mailed to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, the New York Post and the National Enquirer. Five people die and 17 others are infected. The letters lead to an increase in federal funding for biological warfare research and preparedness.

2002-06-30 19:04:53

Addiction Treatment Clinic closes

The health district closes its addiction treatment clinic after careful evaluation and a determination that comparable services are available in the community. The clinic provided methadone to treat clients with addiction to opiates and had operated since 1972.

2002-09-10 19:04:53

Oral HIV testing offered

Oral HIV testing becomes available, offering an alternative to blood tests for people seeking to learn their HIV status. The new test checks for the presence of HIV antibodies in the tissue fluids of the cheeks and gums.

2002-11-01 19:04:53

Federal funding helps create preparedness program

The federal government establishes the Department of Homeland Security. Federal funding helps establish the health district’s Office of Public Health Preparedness. As part of its planning protocols, the Medical Reserve Corps of Southern Nevada is created to identify and train health care providers who can respond in an emergency.

2003-01-01 19:04:53

SARS Identified in Asia

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is identified in Asia. The health district investigates suspected cases during the spring.

2003-07-01 19:04:53

Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory is built

Federal grant funding helps establish Southern Nevada’s first public health laboratory. Prior to this, the Greater Las Vegas area is the only major metropolitan area in the United States without a public health laboratory presence within 100 miles. The Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory is a branch of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory and provides vital assistance in disease outbreaks.

2004-07-29 19:04:53

West Nile virus is detected

The first locally acquired case of West Nile virus is reported in a Clark County resident. The patient is hospitalized with symptoms including meningitis but recovers from the illness.

2005-01-01 06:44:19

Community Health Division is created

The Community Health Division is created and encompasses the Office of Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, Office of Emergency Medical Services & Trauma System, Office of Epidemiology, Office of Public Health Preparedness and the Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory.

2005-05-01 06:44:19

Syphilis prevention campaign launches

The syphilis prevention campaign is created in response to an ongoing syphilis outbreak in Clark County. Campaign activities include the development of novel approaches for distributing information and catch phrases. Cocktail napkins, hand towels, condom covers and other items are distributed in bars and adult venues.

2005-07-01 06:44:19

West Nile virus/mosquito surveillance begins

West Nile virus is now an established illness in the local mosquito population. In response, mosquito control and surveillance responsibilities are transferred from Clark County to the health district through an interlocal agreement.

2005-09-01 06:44:19

Can It, Southern Nevada

The “Can It” campaign is launched to inform residents about the health district’s preparedness plan and to urge residents to create a plan of their own. The campaign encourages locals to be prepared for natural or man-made disasters by assembling a kit of essential items to help them survive the initial days of an emergency situation.

2005-09-23 06:44:19

Hepatitis A exposure notification

The health district notifies 20,000 attendees of a convention that they may have come into contact with an individual infected with hepatitis A who worked at a food service booth and handed out samples of ice cream.

2005-10-01 06:44:19

Clark County Trauma System is created

The Clark County Trauma System is created. The system facilitates appropriate triage and transportation of trauma victims to health care facilities that can provide the appropriate level of care.

2005-12-01 06:44:19

Rubella is eradicated

Rubella, also known as German measles, is eliminated in the United States.

Southern Nevada Health District: The First 50 Years

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