Examining the Role of Local Boards of Health in Local Health Departments in the United States

Sasmira Matta, PhD Candidate, The Wharton School

Abstract: Nearly 3,000 local health departments (LHDs) across the United States are tasked with improving, maintaining, and monitoring population health. LHDs are an administrative or service unit of local or state government concerned with health, and carrying out the responsibility for the health of a jurisdiction smaller than a state. Approximately 75% of LHDs are governed by a local board of health (LBOH), which have been defined as oversight to assume ultimate responsibility for public health performance in the community by providing necessary leadership and guidance in order to support the public health agency in achieving measurable outcomes. LHDs, particularly their LBOH governance structures, have been understudied and it remains unknown whether and how these boards contribute to innovation and creativity and their relation to organizational performance.