County to Create Public Health Board

Washtenaw County commissioners have taken an initial step to create a board of health, an entity that would prove advice on public health issues for the county. The action took place at the county board’s May 21, 2014 meeting on a 7-1 vote, over dissent from Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5). Alicia Ping (R-District 3) was absent.

A description of the board’s duties is outlined in a staff memo that accompanied the May 21 resolution:

The purpose and role of a Washtenaw County Board of Health will be to identify public health problems and concerns in the community, establish health priorities, and advise the Board of Commissioners and the Health Department on issues and possible solutions. The Board of Health will serve as advocates and educators for public health services and policies. The Board of Health will provide oversight and guidance to the Health Department, and will recommend a program of basic health services to the Board of Commissioners.

The new Board of Health will have the authority to hear appeals and requests for variances from the local public health and environmental regulations established under the Public Health Code. The Board of Health will have the authority to hear appeals regarding the suspension or revocation of food service licenses.

The resolution creating the health board also dissolves an existing existing environmental health code appeals board and the hearing board for the Health Department Food Service Regulation. The duties of those boards would be absorbed by the new health board. [.pdf of staff memo]

The recommended size is 10 members, including one ex-officio representative from the county board of commissioners. According to the staff memo, appointments could represent “health service delivery (physicians, dentists, mental health practitioners, administrators); environmental health and conservation, land use planning, food service and nutrition, academia, K-12 education, philanthropy, social service delivery, legal services, and consumers of public health services.”

Members would be compensated for attending each meeting. The total cost for the health board, including in-kind staff support, is estimated at $19,000 annually.

Commissioners will likely to take a final vote at their June 4 meeting. The board of health would be expected to convene for the first time in October 2014.

This brief was filed from the boardroom at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]