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The Status of State Boards of Health in 2010

Fenton, Ginger D. PhD, MS

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: November/December 2011 - Volume 17 - Issue 6 - p 554–559
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3182164fa1
Commentary

Objective: The objective of the survey was to update information about state boards of health throughout the United States and, based on the results of the survey, to determine how the National Association of Local Boards of Health can serve as a resource to assist state boards in fulfilling their responsibilities and duties.

Design: A written survey was developed to collect information about the composition, organizational structure, statutory authority, roles, responsibilities, concerns, and needs of state boards of health.

Setting: Information specific to state boards of health has not been collected on a routine basis by any organization, therefore the National Association of Local Boards of Health sought to compile current information on these boards that will be maintained and updated on a routine basis.

Participants: Surveys were mailed to 31 contacts for state boards of health.

Main Outcome Measure: After follow-up attempts, responses (n = 27) were received from all but four boards for a response rate of 87.1% with one indicating no board.

Results: Consumers and physicians were most frequently reported as required members of the boards. Board members were appointed solely by the governor in 21 (80.8%) states. Nine boards (34.6%) indicated an advisory only capacity regarding statutory authority while the others were governing, policy making, or had multiple authorities. Specific responsibilities of all of the boards included, regardless of statutory authority, advising the state chief health officer (84.6%), advising the governor (42.3%), and adopting and enforcing statutes (38.5%).

Conclusions: State boards of health have undergone changes and likely will continue to evolve in their role in public health governance as demonstrated by this survey. This repository of current data on state boards of health could be of use to public health researchers, boards of health, and national public health organizations in strengthening public health governance.

This study describes a survey aimed to update information about state boards of health throughout the United States and to determine how the National Association of Local Boards of Health can assist state boards in fulfilling their responsibilities and duties.

Research & Evaluation, National Association of Local Boards of Health, Bowling Green, Ohio

The author thanks Dr Charles Moon (NALBOH, retired) who prepared the survey instrument and Dr Rachel Stevens who reviewed the instrument for this study.

Disclosure: The author reports no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Ginger D. Fenton, PhD, MS, Research & Evaluation, National Association of Local Boards of Health, 1840 East Gypsy Lane Road, Bowling Green, OH 43402 (ginger@nalboh.org).

Copyright © 2011 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.