J. Edgar Caswell, 72, former chief of the D.C. Health Department's public health education section and a former staff assistant with the President's Council on Youth Fitness, died Monday at Montgomery General Hospital after a heart attack.

Mr. Caswell joined the staff of the U.S. Public Health Service in 1946, and two years later transferred to the D.C. Health Department. When the department was reorganized in August, 1953, he became chief of the public health education section.

He resigned in 1958 from the health department and became a staff assistant in health and physical education for the President's Council on Youth Fitness. In 1961, he moved to the heart control program of the U.S. Public Health Service. As an adviser, Mr. Caswell worked with Dr. John Curry of Holy Cross Hospital to set up that hospital's first cardiac intensive-care unit. He retired from the U.S. PHS in 1973.

Born in Englewood, N.J., Mr. Caswell graduated from New York University. After teaching health and physical fitness in New Jersey and New York, he did graduate work in health education at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Caswell served in the Army in World War II.

He was a member of the D.C. and American associations for health, physical education and recreation. He was a past president of the Parkland Parent-Teacher's Association, a member of Brooke Manor Country Club and of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Wheaton.

Survivors include his wife, Pat. H., and two sons, Vern and Bob, all of the home in Rockville.