What is the Public Health Laboratory?
The Public Health Laboratory, a division of the Minnesota Department of Health, is busy each day protecting the health of Minnesotans. We test samples and make plans to detect, investigate, prevent, and control public health hazards. Our experienced scientists use state-of-the-art equipment that would be cost-prohibitive for most organizations to own.
The Minnesota Public Health Laboratory is part of a network of public health laboratories across the country. This network collaborates with state agencies, clinical laboratories, federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, local police, and international institutions like the World Health Organization.
There has long been a recognized need for a state-run laboratory dedicated to public health. The Minnesota Public Health Laboratory was established more than 100 years ago. The germ theory of infectious disease was newly established, and people knew little about how environmental contamination affects human health.
In the early 1900s, improved methods and instruments made state-run public health programs possible. The Public Health Laboratory became the premier laboratory in Minnesota for identifying environmental hazards and diagnosing infectious diseases.
Our Environmental Laboratory annually analyzes around 44,000 samples of drinking water, surface water, wastewater, soil, wildlife, vegetation, and hazardous waste. Our tests search for chemicals, bacteria, and radiation that could present risks to public health. The lab also partners with the Infectious Disease Laboratory in managing Laboratory Emergency Preparedness.
Our Infectious Disease Laboratory tests specimens sent to us by other health providers. We use sophisticated techniques not available in most labs. Working with other government agencies, we track trends such as anti-microbial resistance, the emergence of new diseases such as COVID-19, and the re-emergence of diseases such as tuberculosis. The infectious disease lab also encompasses the Minnesota Laboratory System and Emergency Preparedness and Response, the latter of which is part of Laboratory Emergency Preparedness.
In 1964, the first duties of the Newborn Screening Program were added to the Public Health Laboratory. That year, the federal government recognized the need to identify cases of phenylketonuria (PKU) as early as possible. The list of conditions we screen for has since grown to more than 60: see our Newborn Screening Panel and Timeline page. If these conditions are not treated soon after birth, the babies can die, suffer brain damage, or experience other complications. Every year, this process saves or improves the lives of hundreds of babies in Minnesota.
- Annual Reports
- COVID-19 Stories
- Description of Funds
- Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) Certificate (PDF)
- Lab Tours
- MDH Speaks: Public Health Lab Video Series
- On Call Policy (PDF)
- Org Chart (PDF)
- Public Health Laboratory Home
- Work at the Public Health Laboratory
Contact the Public Health Laboratory with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-201-5200.