Press Release

Press Release  Massachusetts public health officials announce performance standards for local public health

New standards created with local and regional public health to ensure equitable high-quality level of services statewide
For immediate release:
  • Department of Public Health

Media Contact   for Massachusetts public health officials announce performance standards for local public health

Ann Scales, Director of Media Relations

Boston — Working to strengthen the delivery of public health services, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced the establishment for the first time of a set of performance standards, credentials, and workforce training requirements for local public health departments.

These standards, created in close collaboration with local public health partners, are an important step toward providing consistent, high-quality public health services for all Commonwealth residents.

“Standardizing local public health performance requirements will mean that people in all cities and towns in Massachusetts can expect the same level of equitable and high-quality services,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD. “DPH is already using the new standards to target resources and solutions, providing local public health with necessary data to recruit additional staff, deliver training, and strengthen services.”

DPH’s Office of Local and Regional Health, in collaboration with local public health, developed the inaugural performance standards pursuant to legislation enacted in 2020, An Act Relative to Strengthening the Local and Regional Public Health System, and in alignment with the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health’s Blueprint for Public Excellence Report. With these measurable standards and workforce credentials, DPH seeks to establish a baseline for all local public health professionals to have the knowledge and necessary training to carry out their duties.

“The state and local public health departments are absolutely committed to providing the same high-quality services for all residents, no matter where they live,” said Sam Wong, Director of the Office of Local and Regional Health. “The immense challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the urgency of strengthening local public health infrastructure, boosting training, and expanding services—and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

As part of this effort, DPH is updating and developing new educational courses on public health topics related to the performance standards, including creating an online training portal so that local public health professionals can easily access required trainings. Additionally, in partnership with local public health, DPH is supporting the creation of 10 field training hubs across the state, an approximate $5.5 million investment, to provide hands-on proficiency training on regulatory compliance. The aim is to ensure, for example, that all restaurant, housing, pool, and camp inspectors can easily access training on the sanitary code and food safety requirements, and that those trainings are standardized statewide.

“Despite the dedication of our local public workforce, our local public health system is consistently challenged in addressing everyday public health risks, from housing code and food safety inspections to infectious disease control and beach closures,” said Cheryl Sbarra, member of the Coalition for Local Public Health and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards. “Our state’s historically decentralized approach to public health delivery has led to extreme variability across cities and towns. The performance standards will bring the consistency and equity to public health delivery across the state that are necessary to ensure that we are ready to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”  

These standards will continue to evolve over time with the goal of aligning closely with the Foundational Public Health Services, a nationally recognized minimum set of skills, programs, and activities a health department must have to function well.

“Developing professional workforce standards will promote the capacity for all public health nurses to use their specialized clinical skill set to work toward efficiently delivering equitable public health services,” said Gail Johnson, President of the Massachusetts Association of Public Health Nurses. “Ultimately, this will lead to better health outcomes throughout the Commonwealth.”

In collaboration with the Office of Local and Regional Health, 305 municipalities participated in a widespread capacity assessment last year to help DPH and local public health leaders identify areas that would benefit from additional resources to meet the performance standards. As part of efforts to support the implementation of these standards, DPH allocated $13.8 million in grants in Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) to more than 300 municipalities toward expanding inter-municipal shared service arrangements. These arrangements involve groups of cities and towns committed to pooling resources, functions, and expertise to offer more comprehensive public health services to their populations.

“We applaud the new standards, created hand in hand with local public health professionals who know what they need for their residents,” said Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra. “The Performance Standards and this continued strong collaboration will help cities and towns to enhance and expand the local health services they provide.”

Visit here to learn more about the new performance standards.


Media Contact   for Massachusetts public health officials announce performance standards for local public health

  • Department of Public Health 

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