By Bob Katzen
Governor Baker signed into law a bill to improve the delivery of public health services through enhanced collaboration between local boards of health and regional health districts. A key provision creates a State Action for Public Health Excellence Program to encourage boards of health and regional health districts to adopt practices that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of local public health services. The program would also provide grants to improve these health systems and requires not less than 33 percent of the grants go to cities and towns with a median household income below the state average.
Other provisions include the state providing at least four annual free public health educational and training opportunities to boards of health and regional health district officials; and setting minimum standards for local public health services.
Each of the state’s 351 cities and towns has its own board of health which is designed to ensure many health-related items including food safety in restaurants, response to public health emergencies, housing code violations and water quality at beaches and pools. Cities and towns have vastly different staffing levels and most small towns lack a full-time staff.
“This bill will allow for a more effective and efficient delivering of local and regional public health services and ensure that our public health staff have access to necessary training and professional development opportunities,” said Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), a member of the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health. “As we see evident in the current pandemic, our public health officials are on the front-line in our communities and this bill provides them with the support necessary to best serve residents.”