Print Page   |   Sign In   |   Become a Member
Latest News: NALBOH News

April 2020 President's Message

Monday, April 27, 2020  
Share |

April 2020 President's Message
Dr. Diane Gerlach

The Board of Health Role in the fight against COVID 19

Not since the Spanish Flu of 1918 which killed 675,000 people in the US, have we seen nationwide devastation of this magnitude. No communities were truly prepared for the current pandemic, but we have the advantage of learning from our public health partners around the world. The Board of Health is the public health leader in our community and helps to guide the way.

The health department overseen by the board of health that provides Incident Command for the community. It compiles numbers and details to coordinate the fight. Healthcare systems collect their own data but do not always talk to each other. The board of health must pull the stakeholders together to ensure the care and safety for all.

Another function of the board of health is to create policies. This includes a strategic plan for emergencies. Large local private healthcare systems will have their own plan, but the board of health must serve the whole community including the homeless, uninsured, undocumented, and incarcerated populations.

The board of health may have fiduciary responsibility for the Health Department and needs to consider where services are best provided in the community. What is the capacity of the local health systems for testing and treatment? With limited staffing and funds, what services should the health department provide? This depends on if you are in an area with a small critical access hospital or a major private health system.

The board of health is not only responsible for healthcare, but may also deal with restaurants, parks, sanitation, and schools. In the current crisis, the federal and state government have put forth overarching restrictions and recommendations. The local board of health must adapt these to the community and enforce them. It needs to monitor that businesses are operating with the safety of their employees and customers in mind; restaurants are following health codes as they change to curbside pickup; long term care facilities are providing quality care with a frightened overstretched staff. It may have to decide what is an essential business; should there be a curfew; should out of towners be able to come to their vacation homes. As life tries to return to normal, it must weigh the health and economic ramifications.

As the pandemic plays out, the board of health continually monitors its effects in the community. It looks at demographics to identify gaps and direct services to fill them. It keeps an eye on what is happening and working around the world so the community can adjust quickly. In the end, the board of health is part of a team that debriefs the local response. Every emergency is a learning experience. It is about not making the same mistake twice.

As you can see, the Board of Health’s role is key to a community making it through the pandemic. It can be summed up by the 6 functions of governance: partner engagement; resource stewardship; oversight; legal authority; policy development; and continuous improvement.