Ensuring Healthy Communities

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In 1799, Paul Revere was named chairman of the Commonwealth’s first board of health in Boston and given broad authority to control the “filth and offal” that contaminated the environment. Two plus centuries later, though charged with many more responsibilities, the purpose of these boards remains the same: to provide for the public’s health and safety.

Beyond the annual flu clinics, it’s likely that much of the work of these boards is invisible to most citizens, yet we reap the benefits of their work every day – clean water, safe disposal of solid and hazardous waste, food inspections, enforcement of housing and sanitary codes, tobacco control, infectious disease control, and more.

The July episode of Physician Focus with the Massachusetts Medical Society takes an in-depth look at local boards of health with senior officials of the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards (MAHB).

Guests are Christopher Quinn, M.D., MAHB President, physician with the Attleboro Health Department, and Director of Occupational Health Services for Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, and Ms. Cheryl Sbarra, staff attorney for MAHB who provides legal consultation, policy guidance and technical assistance to boards of health and municipal governments throughout the Commonwealth. Hosting this edition is B. Dale Magee, M.D., a past president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

The discussion examines the responsibilities of the boards, their enforcement powers, how they’re managed and operated, the challenges they face in performing their duties, how they balance individual rights and behaviors while maintaining standards of health and safety for the entire community, and how they relate to other local and state agencies, such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Please join us in July on Physician Focus for an enlightening discussion, one that hopes to give residents throughout the Commonwealth a better understanding of their local boards of health and how they contribute, every day, to our individual well-being and overall public health.

Photo: From left, B. Dale Magee, M.D., Christopher Quinn, M.D., Cheryl Sbarra, Esq.