Citizen Advisory Boards

Ned E. Baker and Marie Fallon

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Citizen Advisory Boards

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From the earliest colonial days, the citizens of North American colonies banded together to protect their health from the ravages of epidemics. As the colonies became a nation, many local governments called upon their citizens to help them control the spread of disease and improve sanitation. These same governments in the late 18th century began to appoint citizen boards of health to advise them on issues of public health. In the mid-19th century, one of the most notable and extraordinary early documents on public health was published: “Report of the Sanitary Commission of Massachusetts” (Shattuck, et al. 1850, cited under Introductory Works), authored by Lemuel Shattuck, Nathaniel Banks, and Jehiel Abbot. Shattuck, the principal author, was a layman and a legislator appointed to chair a legislative committee to study the health and sanitary problems of the Commonwealth. One of the primary recommendations in this report was to establish a state board of health and to create local citizen boards of health in every community in Massachusetts. In 1876, this report was presented to the International Medical Congress, which endorsed it as a model and guide for the development of modern public health services in the country. Today, public health relies on the strength and involvement of the citizen constituency it serves. In nearly every state, boards of health, public health councils, or similar bodies provide governance for local health departments, establish public health policies, or advise public health policy makers. Most boards of health are governing and/or policy making bodies. Those boards of health that are only advisory still have the vital role of providing input and advice to policy makers and health officials. All types of boards of health can appoint citizen advisory committees to further address public health needs and actions. Citizen advisory boards and committees provide the community engagement needed to translate science into practice that results in desired public health outcomes. While more than 20,000 US citizens serve on official boards of health, many other community citizens are involved on sub-boards or committees providing advice to the boards of health, other governing bodies, or public health officials. Most boards of health and health officials utilize advisory groups of citizens on either a permanent or ad hoc basis to assist in conducting community health assessments and developing programs to deal with health concerns related to such issues as tobacco use, second-hand smoke, and obesity. Many program directors, such as directors of public health nursing and environmental health, utilize citizen advisory groups to advise them on their specific programs. Public health is a community affair involving citizens and stakeholders from the community to enhance the effectiveness of public health programs by establishing partnerships.

Article.  1922 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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