Local health departments (LHDs) are increasingly using national standards to meet the challenges presented by the complex environments in which these agencies operate. Local boards of health (LBoHs) might play an instrumental role in improving LHDs' engagement in activities to meet these standards.
To assess the impact of LBoH performance of governance functions on LHDs having a current (completed within 5 years) community health assessment (CHA), community health improvement plan (CHIP), strategic plan, and level of engagement in the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) accreditation program.
Binary and multinomial logistic regression models were used to analyze linked data from 329 LHDs participating in both the 2015 Local Board of Health Survey and the 2016 National Profile of LHDs Survey.
Higher performance of LBoH governance functions, measured by an overall scale of LBoH taxonomy consisting of 60 items, had a significant positive effect on LHDs having completed CHA (P < .001), CHIP (P = .01), and strategic plan (P < .001). LHDs operating in communities with a higher score on the overall scale of LBoH taxonomy had significantly higher odds (P = .03) of having higher level of participation in the PHAB national voluntary accreditation program—that is, being accredited, having submitted application for accreditation, or being in the e-PHAB system (eg, by submitting a letter of intent).
LBoHs serve as governance bodies for roughly 71% of LHDs and can play a significant role in encouraging LHDs' participation in these practices. That positive influence of LBoHs can be seen more clearly if the complexity and richness of LBoH governance functions and other characteristics are measured appropriately. The study findings suggest that LBoHs are a significant component of the public health system in the United States, having positive influence on LHDs having a CHA, CHIP, strategic plan, and participation in accreditation.