TIMMINS – The Porcupine Health Unit celebrated its 75th anniversary on Friday.

It was first created back in 1944 and its challenge back then was to screen over 5,000 people for tuberculosis. These days, it's addressing opioid addictions and continues to educate about other health concerns.

Retired Public Health Nutritionist Betty Ann Horbul started working at the Porcupine Health Unit in the 70s.

"I think the heart and soul of the Health Unit is its commitment to public health, to making sure that as a community, we are as healthy as we can possibly be," said Horbul.

She, along with other retirees and current employees, got together to celebrate 75 years of commitment to Timmins and its surrounding area.

As the Health Unit prepares for the future, it is dealing with current issues of province-wide opioid addiction and an increase in mental health issues among youth. Medical authorities say there are also some unique local challenges.

They say rates of smoking, falling among seniors and sexually transmitted infections are all higher than provincial averages.

"Public health has the unique distinction of working upstream. So we work to prevent patients in the system. We work to try and reduce hallway medicine which is currently one of the government's main mandates," explained Dr. Lianne Catton, Medical Officer of Health.

Dr. Catton says early education is key in all health-related issues, and she says the Health Unit will continue to work with community partners to ensure opportunities for health are optimized.