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A Healthier Future for West Virginia - Healthy People 2010
Federal 2010 Initiative
23 - Public Health Infrastructure
In the mid-1990s, public health officials in West Virginia realized that without major restructuring and increased financial support there was an extreme risk of local health departments closing their doors. Many health departments were already reducing staff and relying on clinical programs to provide financial support. In response to this crisis, officials began addressing how to improve health care in rural West Virginia. These discussions centered around the problems of improving access and quality of care and eliminating wasteful and unnecessary duplication of services. Since that time, state and local officials have taken major steps to create a stronger public health infrastructure that integrates activities throughout the state and local levels by improving the systems, competencies, relationships, and resources that enable county health departments to perform essential basic public health services.
Among policymakers and public health professionals in West Virginia, there has been a growing sense that public health, either as a governmental activity or commitment of society, is neither clearly defined, adequately supported, nor fully understood. Therefore, it became evident that the purpose and delivery of public health needs to be examined and incorporated fully into the future community health care system to ensure its continued availability.
The mission of public health in West Virginia is to establish a public health system designed to:
The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (WVBPH) is the centralized governmental body that manages public health in West Virginia. Organizationally, it is composed of eight offices in addition to the Commissioner's Office. These offices are Community and Rural Health Services, Maternal, Child & Family Health Services, Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Chief Medical Examiner, Environmental Health, Nutrition, Laboratory, and Health Facilities Licensure and Certification. These offices provide certain funding, technical assistance, training, and oversight activities to local public health departments and other health care providers. The Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health is the state health officer and is the overseer of the operations of WVBPH offices and is responsible for the distribution of state funding and enforcement of public health laws.
West Virginia has 55 counties. Each county commission is responsible for creating, establishing, and maintaining a county board of health. Forty-seven counties have their own public health administrative offices. Two counties have united under one board of health. The remaining six counties have established a combined board of health. Each local board of health is responsible for directing, supervising, and carrying out matters relating to the public health of their respective counties or municipalities. The purpose of the board is to insure the consistent performance of duties related to basic public health services and other health services and the enforcement of the laws of this state and county ordinances pertaining to public health. WV State Code defines basic public health services as those services that are necessary to protect the health of the public and that a local board of health must provide. The three areas of basic public health services are communicable and reportable disease prevention and control, community health promotion, and environmental health protection. Each board must appoint a physician to serve as the local health officer. The local health officer supervises and directs the activities of the local board's health services, health department employees, and facilities. The health officer must also enforce county and state public health laws and submit reports to the state on communicable and reportable disease.
The Public Health Infrastructure's Healthy People 2010 objectives focus on the components that support the delivery of basic public health services: a skilled work force, integrated electronic information systems, computer technology, technical support and training, performance-based standards, and a linked state and local public health system improvement plan.
Data Sources: West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (WVBPH), Office of Community and Rural Health Services (OCRHS), Division of Public Health Nursing and Administration (PHNA); Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Management Information Systems (MIS)
OBJECTIVE 23.2. Increase access to continuing education and training
for public health agency employees to develop competency in basic public
Data Sources: WVBPH, OCRHS, PHNA; Office of Environmental Health Services (OEHS)
Data Source: WVBPH, OCRHS, PHNA
Data Source: WVBPH, Office of Epidemiology and Health Promotion (OEHP), Division of Surveillance and Disease Control
Data Source: WVBPH, Legislative and Regulatory Subcommittee
Data Source: WVBPH, Basic Public Health Services Cost Subcommittee
Meeting the Objectives
Health Promotion Channels for Achieving Objectives:
Strategic planning has already begun to meet the 2010 objectives. Increased state and local funding has provided each health department with computers to allow electronic data collection and transmission of reports. Public health work force needs have been identified through a statewide survey. Committees of state and local public health workers have been organized to develop performance standards and to implement a quality improvement plan.
A technical assistance and training committee is now developing continuing education and staff development for public health employees. Current public health laws are being reviewed and revised by the Legislative and Regulatory Subcommittee. A financial committee has been formed to determine the cost of delivering basic public health services.
The interaction between local and state government is a combined effort defining the role of public health agencies in enhancing the health of the community. The vision is to revitalize the public health infrastructure and rebuild the system of public health at all levels of government and to have vital elements in place to assure the public health mission is addressed.
Work Group Members
Janet Briscoe, RN, BSN, Work Group Leader, Nursing Coordinator,
Division of Public Health Nursing and Administration, WVBPH
For More Information
Public Health Nursing and Administration
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This page was last updated June 27, 2001.