Members of Boards of health are expected to be leaders who represent the communities from which they are selected. However, this has not always been the case. Board members are often friends of elected city, county or state officials. Many are retired and can serve at most times. They often define themselves as volunteers rather than trustees of their home communities. Many members have little background in health or even know what local or state health really do. Statutes often require physician and dental members who also do not always understand what public health is all about. Most board presidents or chairs try to give some orientation to new members. With this being said, boards often improve performance if they have a annual to better define their roles and responsibilities. These manuals when they exist tend to be in loose leaf notebooks which allows for new material to be added to the manual as needed. Some experimentation is being given to putting the manuals online. My experience has been that hard copies tend to work better in these groups although background information can clearly be put online.
In 1995-96, a leadership team which included a Board of health member of her team to develop an orientation manual for Board of health members in Illinois. This team was one of the Fellowship teams of the Mid-America Regional Public Health Leadership Institute. Members included Phyllis Reeder, Laura McGee-Otunde, Steve Ochoa, Judith Schlieper, and Mark Schmidt. The manual was developed for use throughout the network The Illinois Association of Boards of Health. Schmidt was able to get the Illinois Department of Public Health to publish the first edition with a copy of the manual for all Boards in the State. The manual is still in use and is updated on a regular basis. Other states have modified the manual for use in their states
The manual should include the following required sections:
1 .What is Public Health?
2. Core Functions and Essential Services
3. Legal Authority/Powers and Duties
5. Open meetings Act(if applicable)
6. Board member profiles
7. Information on Recruitment of Health department Administrators
8. Functions of Boards and board members
9. Local board Information
10.Overview to parliamentary procedure
11. Statutes and Regulation
12. Organization Charts including the state health entity
Supplementary Sections can be included at the discretion of the Board and Administrators, eg discussion of health reform, partnership agreements, and other issues. As you can see, the manual offers much to the Board member and his/her leadership responsibilities.