Investing in Regional Health Departments
Touching upon the last post that connected transportation issues to public health, it will be useful to mention some of the features of a public health department and to better understand the key role of such a department. As mentioned yesterday, RenewLV supports the initiative for a regional health department in the Lehigh Valley. Given our broader vision for regionalization and smart growth in the Lehigh Valley, a bi-county health department falls in line with this mission as it encourages municipal collaboration by providing services that affect the residents of the entire region. Currently, the Valley lacks a public-health system that can provide comprehensive services, and more than two-thirds of the region’s population lives in areas with limited public-health services.
But what does a public health department do? The types of services can be divided generally into the areas of personal health, environmental health, and regional coordination. Some examples of services include nutrition and exercise education, restaurant inspections, and improved emergency preparedness. The benefits reaped by such services are plentiful, ranging from a decrease in illnesses to lowered risk of injury, and even lower rates of obesity. The focus here is on prevention and planning. A public health department is responsible for promoting good health practices and planning for the future long-term health of the general public in a region.
Within the Lehigh Valley specifically, a bi-county health department will give the region access to over $3 million per year in funding. It will also promote consistency in services, and the collaboration effort will translate into savings as the per-person costs decrease when the number of people served decreases (for all you micro-economics buffs, read: economies-of-scale). At its base, a regional health department means regional efficiency.
I encourage you to visit our Regional Health Initiative page to receive the latest updates on the Board of Health.