Category Archives: NALBOH
The National Association of Local Boards of Health, which focuses on strengthening and empowering local boards of health through education and training, is holding its annual meeting this week. The theme of this year’s meeting is "Public Health: Effective Governance, Strong Leadership, Engaged Citizens."
NALBOH’s president is Ed Schneider, 70, who was appointed to the Lincoln-Lancaster (Nebraska) County Board of Health in April 2000 and served as president of the board from January 2001 through January 2005. Public health issues addressed during his tenure as president include updating food regulations, addressing environmental issues, implementing tighter animal control ordinances, implementing a new body-art ordinance, and passage of a 100% smoke-free workplace ordinance. NewPublicHealth spoke to Dr. Schneider this week about the contributions local boards of health make to community health.
NewPublicHealth: Can you give us some background on the Lincoln/Lancaster health department?
Ed Schneider: Lincoln and Lancaster County is fortunate in that it has a very advanced health department. It serves a population of about 250-270,000 people and the health department itself has 240 employees. We have a basic budget of about $12 million, and millions of dollars in grants as well. So we’re well-financed, although we have the same fiscal constraints that a lot of departments have throughout the country. We’re lucky that we have the resources that we do. We have a number of departments that do very well, are very, very active. One of them is health promotion outreach—getting out to the public to talk about obesity, smoking, exercising, and preventing diabetes. Then we have the health data and evaluation department and that has one and a half epidemiologists on staff. We have a large environmental health department that works on everything from safety of food to clean water, clean air. The board of health is a policy board that determines policy for this department, and the actual governance of the Department of Health is by the mayor and by the city council and the county commissioners in Lincoln, Nebraska.
NPH: What did the board of health do that has had an impact on community health?
Ed Schneider: In 1999, we did research on how many people were interested in secondhand smoke and smoking in the working environment, and almost nobody was. So we did a great deal of education over the next three or four years and ultimately the county passed a very strong no smoking ordinance in work places. A couple of years later the entire State of Nebraska copied the Lincoln ordinance.
Another success was in land use planning. In this particular case, we worked with the planning commission. We got input from the planning commission, from the contractors, from builders, from public works and from pipeline folks, and the whole idea was to try to increase access to trails, but away from gas pipelines and other toxic materials. The city plan was rewritten to keep toxic exposures away from certain public areas.
NPH: How important have partnerships been to your successes?
Next week, hundreds of public health officials will meet in Idaho for the annual meeting of the National Association of Local Boards of Health. NewPublicHealth spoke with Marie Fallon, NALBOH’s chief executive officer, about the role of local boards of health and about the highlights of this year’s conference.
NewPublicHealth: What is the role of local boards of health in keeping their communities healthy?
Marie Fallon: Local, state, tribal and territorial boards of health work as trustees of governmental health departments in almost every state in the nation. Members of boards of health are appointed or elected to oversee, guide and set policy for health departments.
The roles of boards of health vary by state as does their authority to carry out their responsibilities. Some boards can enact rules and regulations, while others (the minority) may advise or make recommendations to the governing body for public health, such as a county commission.
As community representatives, board of health member roles include advocating – being the voice from the community to the health department and from the health department to the community and other community representatives, such as elected officials; aligning community need with programs through community health assessments and strategic planning; program oversight, follow-up and assessment; and fiscal oversight to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used as effectively and efficiently as possible.
All boards of health, regardless of the extent of their legal authority, are obligated to enact or recommend policies that serve the interest of public health in the communities they serve.
NPH: How do boards of health and health departments work together?