by Cora Burgoyne
Convening the Board of Health
In Kansas, all local health departments’ Board of Commissioners are required to act as the County Board of Health. Local boards of health play an important role in our public health system. They provide oversight and guidance for local health departments, and set public health priorities for our communities.
Local boards of health have six core functions of public health governance:
- Policy development
- Resource stewardship
- Legal authority
- Partner engagement
- Continuous improvement
The Board of Health of Wyandotte County/KCK had not convened in over six years. The fact that they have not convened was a serious oversight of health department leadership. This came to our attention through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) Standard 12, which requires the health department to maintain capacity to engage the public health governing entity.
Before the Board of Health could convene, the County Administrator, Assistant County Administrator, Director and Deputy Director needed to find the best way to provide information to the commissioners about public health and the health department. The most efficient way to disseminate information was through an orientation manual. I created a Board of Health Onboarding Manual tailored to our specific county, which details topics such as Public Health 101, Legal Authority of the Health Department and Board of Health, Board of Health Functions, and Overview of the Unified Government Public Health Department. The Onboarding Manual and Commissioner Orientation Procedure is the first of its kind for the UPGHD.
Results & Lessons Learned
We convened the Board of Health on March 7, 2019. More than 20 community partners and health department employees attended the meeting, which demonstrates how important this is to the community. Months of hard work came to fruition, and having a large audience validated our work. The commissioners appreciated the presentation, asked some questions, and are looking forward to more regular communication from the health department in the future. The key lesson I learned from this experience is how important it is to maintain relationships with decision makers. If they understand the value of the your work and know your face, they are more likely to advocate on your behalf.