In 1918, as a result of the critical epidemiological situation of the country, the Central Epidemiological Institute was set up in Warsaw. Five years later, on September 7th, it was renamed the National Institute of Hygiene by the council of Ministers of the Republic of Poland.
Initially the main statutory function of the institute was:
the diagnosis of infectious diseases, research of their nature, and routes of transmission, methods of control, as well as the production and experimental studies of sera, vaccines, vaccinia and other bacterial products.
As the epidemiological situation of infectious diseases improved, the Institute became involved in the issues of hygiene. This was expressed in the Statute of 1927 where the principal objective of the institute was formulated as:
research on public hygiene to meet the needs of public health.
The National Institute of Hygiene began to deal with the problems of: prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, production and control of food and consumer goods, sanitary engineering and sanitary administration.
With a view to helping the public health service in the prevention and management of infectious and noninfectious diseases, in the control of food and water and in solving other sanitary problems, the National Institute of Hygiene organized 13 branches throughout the country. These branches, managed by the Head Office in Warsaw assisted the public health service by opening diagnostic and research laboratories.
They were located in Gdynia, Kielce, Cracow, Lublin, Lwsw, Luck, Lsdz, Poznan, Stanislawsw, Torun, Vilnus, in the municipal laboratory of Brzesc on the Bug river, and in the Provincial Laboratory of Hygiene in Katowice. In 1939 the Gdynia – based branch of the National Institute of Hygiene was transformed into the Institute of Marine and Tropical Medicine which exists up to this day.
The research and service activities of the Central National Institute of Hygiene were carried out at the following departments: Bacteriology and Experimental Medicine, Sera and Vaccines, Chemistry, Food and Consumer Goods, Water, the National School of Hygiene and the Institute of Mental Hygiene.
On June 19th, 1922 the Council of Ministers issued a decree according to which the National School of Hygiene was established as a division of the Department of Epidemiology. The organization of the National School of Hygiene, including the building of its seat, was possible thanks to the assistance of the Rockefeller Foundation. Up to 1939, 2455 physicians and about 6000 employees making up the auxiliary personnel were trained for the needs of the public health service in the National School of Hygiene.
The opening of the Museum of Hygiene in 1925 marked a major step in the development of educational activities at the National Institute of Hygiene. It housed expositions which, by presenting the issues of infectious diseases, rural hygiene, sanitary engineering and nutrition hygiene, played a major role in promoting health prevention.
As to its editorial activities, the publication of the following scientific journals can be mentioned: Przeglad Epidemiologiczny (Epidemiological Review), Medycyna Doswiadczalna i Spoleczna (Experimental and Social Medicine), Archiwum Chemii i Farmacji (Archives of Chemistry and Pharmacy), and Popularna Biblioteka Higieny Psychicznej (Popular Series of Mental Hygiene).
The employees of the Institute had access to books dealing with medicine and other related sciences in their own library.
When military operations ceased in 1939, the Central Institute in Warsaw and 3 branches in Lublin, Cracow and Kielce found themselves under German occupation. The German authorities, for fear of infectious diseases, allowed for some anti-epidemic work. Under the cover of performing official functions, the National Institute of Hygiene was involved in conspiracy. Its most important contributions were the clandestine production of the typhus vaccine for the Polish population and distribution of the vaccine to prisons and concentration camps, as well as clandestine teaching for students of the University Medical Faculty which was closed by the occupant.
The branches in Lwsw and Stanislawsw worked under Soviet occupation.
After World War II, a period of reconstruction and reorganization followed.
In 1950 the serum and vaccine-producing departments were separated from the National Institute of Hygiene to form the Union of Serum and Vaccine plants Biomed, however, to this day the Institute maintains state control of the biopreparations.
In 1952, within the framework of the organization of the sanitary and epidemiological service, branches of the National Institute of Hygiene were transformed into Provincial Sanitary-Epidemiological Stations which remained under the scientific and professional supervision of the Institute.
In the course of years some departments of the National Institute of Hygiene widened their scope of activity to such an extent that separate research institutes were founded: Institute of Drugs, Warsaw; Institute of Occupational Medicine, Lsdz; Institute of Food and Nutrition, Warsaw; and Institute of Antibiotics, Warsaw. At the same time new departments were organized in the National Institute of Hygiene: Radiological Protection and Radiobiology, Sanitary Toxicology, Immunology, Medical Statistics.
In 1993 the organizational structure of the National Institute of Hygiene includes 14 Research Departments and 4 Scientific-Service Sections.
During the period 1945-1993 some 200 scientists left the National Institute of Hygiene to be employed in various research centers both home and abroad, among them 27 as heads of chairs of microbiology and hygiene in Medical Academies, 11 as heads of chairs, departments or laboratories at other universities, 27 at the Institute of Drugs, 17 at the Institute of Occupational Medicine, 18 at the Institute of Antibiotics, and 27 at the Institute of Food and Nutrition. Moreover 278 scientists from branches of the National Institute of Hygiene were transferred to Provincial Sanitary- Epidemiological Stations.
In spite of cuts of such a significant group of qualified scientists, it was possible to continue the on-going activities of the National Institute of Hygiene thanks to in-depth training of the Institute personnel.
In 1956 the National Institute of Hygiene was granted the right to confer scientific degrees in medical, pharmaceutical and biological sciences, and in 1965 the right to confer the degree of “dr hab.” (second degree) in these branches. From August 1987 on, the Institute is authorized to confer the following degrees:
- M.D. in medical biology and medicine
- Ph.D. in biology
- Associate Professor in medical biology and medicine
In the period 1945-1992 employees of the Institute were conferred the following degrees:
- doctor 217 persons
- associate professor 72 persons
- extraordinary professor 37 persons
- full professor 19 persons
Beginning from 1965 the greatest number of degrees were conferred by the Scientific Council of the Institute: doctor – 165 persons and associate professor – 49 persons. A motion was made by the Council that the title of extraordinary professor be granted to 24 persons and the title of full professor to 13 persons.
Since 1969 up to this day, except for a short break, postgraduate studies are offered at the Institute. These studies enable research workers involved in bacteriology, epidemiology, environmental hygiene, immunopathology, food research, parasitology and virology to obtain the degree of doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in medicine and biological sciences.
In 1946 the National School of Hygiene reopened with a view to preparing public health service workers for new tasks in preventive medicine.
In 1952 this was taken over by the Sanitary-Hygienic Division of the Medical Academy in Warsaw. The National Institute of Hygiene remained responsible for postgraduate studies.
In 1967 the Sanitary-Hygienic Division was again included into the National Institute of Hygiene as Section for Education which, under the name of Public Health Department, trains postgraduates working basically for the sanitary-epidemiological service and also for other medical centers. Training is provided by employees of the National Institute of Hygiene, with the cooperation of the Institute of Food and Nutrition in Warsaw, the Institute of Rural Medicine in Lublin and other institutes and university schools.
In the period 1967-1992 960 courses leading to specialization, information workshops and different standardization and upgrading courses were organized by the Section for Education. The courses lasted from 3 days to 3 months with total of 25,488 graduates.
The Examination Commissions were set up by the Director on the motion of the Postgraduate Medical Training Center or Provincial Medical Training Centers. A total of 376 persons at that time passed specialization exams: 1st degree in hygiene and epidemiology: 129 persons; 2nd degree in epidemiology: 139 persons; 2nd degree in hygiene: 36 persons; 2nd degree in school hygiene: 45 persons; 2nd degree in microbiology: 10 persons; 2nd degree in environmental analytics: 10 persons and 6 persons in other related branches.
A large number of scientists from the National Institute of Hygiene took part in training courses organized by other institutes and in examination commissions set up mainly in Medical Academies, e.g. for specialization exams in infectious diseases.
In 1947 the Institute resumed publication of the quarterly Przeglad Epidemiologiczny (Epidemiological Review), from 1958 till now the official organ of the National Institute of Hygiene and the Polish Society of Epidemiologists and Infectious Diseases Physicians. In 1949 editing of the quarterly Medycyna Doswiadczalna i Mikrobiologia (Experimental Medicine and Microbiology), the organ of the National Institute of Hygiene and Polish Microbiological Society, was resumed.
In 1950 Roczniki PZH (Annals of the National Institute of Hygiene) began to appear. This bimonthly is devoted to scientific problems of environmental hygiene, in particular to communal hygiene and other related problems.
Since 1990 the National Institute of Hygiene has been in charge of the edition and distribution of these journals.
From 1962 on Methodological Series of the National Institute of Hygiene have been published: till 1992 145 issues appeared in the following branches: bacteriology, serum and vaccine research, epidemiology, medical parasitology, virology, immunopathology, food and consumer goods research, school hygiene, disinfection, sanitary toxicology, communal hygiene, biological pollution control, medical statistics.
Since 1982 biweekly, quarterly and annual bulletins treating of the epidemiological situation of the country are being published under the title Choroby zakazne i zatrucia w Polsce (Infectious Diseases and Poisonings in Poland).
Moreover annual bulletins have been published since 1984 under the title Sytuacja zdrowotna ludnosci w Polsce (Health Condition of the Population in Poland).
The year 1945 marks the opening of the Library of the Institute. In 1967 it was reorganized into the Section for Scientific Information and Documentation and Library. Its activities include the collection, elaboration, classification, storage and loan of incoming scientific literature.
At the end of 1992 the Library had over 46,000 volumes. Documentation work for the Institute is carried out by the Printing Unit and Photo Laboratory.
The Library has a running information service in the scientific branches represented at the Institute (AQUALINE, CHEM-BANK, FSTA (Food Science and Technology Abstracts), MEDLINE, PEST-BANK).
Since 1990 the Library has been responsible for the distribution of bulletins and journals edited by the Institute and by the Polish Society of Microbiology: Postepy Mikrobiologii (Advances in Microbiology) and Acta Microbiologica Polonica.