County boards of health are being told to take a more active role in improving the health of their communities

Christian County’s health director told the county Board of Health last week that it “needs to spend less time on the health department’s budget and more time addressing big questions of community health,” Nick Tabor writes for the Kentucky New Era. “The past four years, we haven’t talked about a lot of health issues. That’s going to change,” Director Mark Pyle told the 12-member board, which is appointed by the state secretary of health and family services.

Other county health boards may be hearing likewise, as their departments seek national accreditation (required by 2020, under a recent state law) and more attention is focused on the boards’ stautory responsibility for the health of their communities. (Photo from the Knox County Health Department, which had a cake to celebrate the recent opening of its new building)

Accreditation steers health departments away from a “silo” model in which they worry only about its own affairs, Assistant Christian County Health Director Laura Hammons said. Pyle said their department needs to help build a “community health system” involving all all local organizations involved in health matters, from the Red Cross to the YMCA. (Read more)

County health boards should “assume responsibility for educating their population about improving their health status,” be “highly visible and proactive,” and play a leading role “in developing healthy community coalitions and partnerships,” the statewide Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation said in a report, “The Role of Public Health and the Health of the Community,” published in May.

Partly as a result of the committee study that led to the report, “Actions have been taken to increase training for local boards of health, including presentations by the commissioner of public health at board meetings and several training sessions at the state level for board members,” the report said.

The report notes that KRS 212.240 requires county health departments, under supervision of county health boards and the state, “formulate, promote, establish, and execute policies, plans, and programs to safeguard the health of the people of the county and establish, maintain, implement, promote, and conduct facilities and services for the purpose of protecting the public health.” To download a PDF of the report, click here.

County health board members include three physicians, a dentist, a nurse, a sanitary engineer, an optometrist, a veterinarian, a pharmacist, a lay person “knowledgeable in consumer affairs,” the county judge-executive and a person appointed by the county fiscal court. If a county lacks one of the categories, another consumer representative can be appointed. For a PDF of the law, click here. For an index of all the laws on county health programs, click here.

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