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Department History & Overview

Health Building
The Department of Health was created by the Act of April 27, 1905, P.L. 312, and modified subsequently through the Administrative Code of 1929. Act 87 of July 2, 1996, P.L. 518, removed the requirement that the Secretary be a physician; the Act also established the new position of Physician General.
The Department of Health has touched every citizen in all parts of the Commonwealth. Through the use of community-based strategies, the Department of Health has successfully reduced the number of serious illnesses, injuries and deaths due to major health threats; tobacco-related diseases; infectious disease; and accidental injuries.   
Over the years, the Department’s mission has been adapted to meet the needs and demands of the dynamic nature of Public Health, but one thing has not changed – the commitment, dedication and professionalism of Department of Health staff to provide top-quality programs and services that benefit the health, safety and well-being of all Pennsylvanians.

Department Mission and Core Functions 
The Department's mission is to promote healthy lifestyles, prevent injury and disease, and to assure the safe delivery of quality health care for all Commonwealth citizens.

Strategic Imperatives
We will work collaboratively with public and private partners in our communities to facilitate the development of an effective public health system that promotes the optimal health of its citizens while reducing the need for health care.  As active partners in the pursuit of good health, we will strive to:

  • Monitor the health status of the population; 
  • Identify and eliminate preventable illness and accidents;
  • Reduce the severity of illness and disability;
  • Promote healthy behaviors;
  • Improve health care quality, access, continuity and accountability; and
  • Lead the development of sound health policy and planning.
The Department is responsible for planning and coordinating health resources throughout the Commonwealth. It licenses and regulates a variety of health facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory surgical facilities and other in-patient and out-patient facilities. In addition, the Department supports outreach, education, prevention and treatment services across a variety of program areas. Grants and subsidies to community-based groups are used to provide essential services to the Commonwealth's citizens including programs for women and children, nutrition, immunization, diagnosis and treatment of certain blood and communicable diseases, cancer control and prevention, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

The Department is redirecting funding and programmatic activities toward outcomes-based performance standards. Through its contracting and grants process, it strives to create durable community-based partnerships that strengthen healthy families and individuals in their local communities while enhancing the delivery of health care. Systems planning is dependent on input from consumers, providers and industry stakeholders. The ultimate goal of the Department is to ensure access to health care while assuring quality of care.