Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) Regionalization Initiative
Shortly after his appointment in the spring of 2007, Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach conducted a series of eight Regional Health Dialogues across the state. With input from over 1,000 attendees, the Commissioner developed a set of guiding principles and outlined five priorities for the Department. One of these priorities was to "Build Public Health Capacity at the Local and State Levels." A critical implementation goal was to support planning to develop a regional public health system for Massachusetts in partnership with local public health officials, academics, legislative leaders, and other state agencies. In September 2009, the Mass. Public Health Regionalization Project, led by the Boston University School of Public Health and MDPH, published a comprehensive status report. To read the report, visit Massachusetts Public Health Regionalization Project Status Report.
In 2009, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill establishing a special Regionalization Advisory Commission under the leadership of Lt. Governor Timothy Murray to examine opportunities to regionalize a variety of municipal services, including public health. MDPH's representative to the Commission chaired the public health committee, which adopted many recommendations from the Mass. Public Health Regionalization Project. To read the Regionalization Advisory Commission's final report, download: .
MDPH's efforts to promote regionalization of local public health are being conducted in collaboration with the Coalition for Local Public Health (CLPH). The Coalition is comprised of the five statewide public health professional associations, including the Mass. Health Officers Association, Mass. Association of Health Boards, Mass. Association of Public Health Nurses, Mass. Environmental Health Association, and Mass. Public Health Association. (See web links to CLPH organizations below.) In 2006, CLPH commissioned a study of the state's local public health workforce that remains the most comprehensive analysis available about assets and needs of the state's local health infrastructure. To read the study, visit: Strengthening Local Public Health in Massachusetts.
A strong partnership between state and local health is critical for addressing the many challenges of public health in the 21 st century. Commissioner Auerbach has continued to conduct health dialogues annually in every region of the state and has maintained as a top priority of his administration the goal of strengthening local health capacity, resulting in a number of accomplishments:
- In 2008, MDPH opened a Southeast Regional Health Office in New Bedford, in order to improve accessibility of services to cities and towns in the area.
- In 2009, the Department updated its manual describing responsibilities of local Boards of Health and made the manual available on the Internet for the first time (see web link to manual below).
- The Department collaborated closely with local health officials in mounting one of the nation's most effective coordinated responses to the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic.
- In 2009-10, the Department revitalized the Local Public Health Institute through collaboration with the Boston University School of Public Health in order to improve training opportunities for the local health workforce.
- Over the past two years, MDPH's Mass in Motion municipal wellness grant program has funded partnerships including local officials that have conducted community health assessments and launched policy initiatives to prevent obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.
- MDPH Bureaus-notably the Bureau of Emergency Preparedness and Bureau of Environmental Health-provide an array of support services to local health officials.
- The MDPH Bureau of Substance Abuse Services has expanded funding for tobacco control, alcohol, and opiate prevention services in collaboration with local health authorities and through regional partnerships.
- The Commissioner or senior members of his management team meet monthly with the Local State Advisory Council, representing emergency preparedness coalitions from across the state, to effectively coordinate planning and response not only to H1N1 but also severe storms and other health emergencies.
- Directors of all of the MDPH Regional Health Offices (RHOs) have been meeting directly with local health officials in order to make the RHOs more accessible.
- With CDC funding, MDPH is re-opening an Office of Local Health to manage the District Incentive Grant Program and improve technical assistance to local health officials.
For directories with contact information for local Boards of Health and health departments in Massachusetts cities and towns, please visit the Mass. Health Officers Association website at MHOA Board of Health Rosteror the Mass. Association of Health Boards website at MAHB Local Health Directory.
An important function of the Office of Healthy Communities is to help coordinate information and resources across program areas. The following links are provided to assist in this coordination.
- MA Public Health Regionalization Project
- Board of Health Manual of Laws and Regulations
- Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers
- Massachusetts Association of Health Boards
- Massachusetts Association of Public Health Nurses
- Massachusetts Environmental Health Association
- Massachusetts Health Officers Association
- Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers
- Massachusetts Municipal Association
- Massachusetts Public Health Association