Bedford’s Board of Health: A Community Resource

By Ann A. Kiessling, PhD

Public-Health-LogoOur nation’s Public Health system is a mainstay in our daily health and safety and a model for the world.  Only in the last five years has India begun to build and staff schools of public health, and although most countries have some form of Health Ministry, few are as organized, far reaching and powerful as ours.  Federal Public Health laws, and those of most states and communities, are crafted to override other laws and statutes when the need arises.  Just ask Chipotle.

An essential cog in the overall system are local Boards of Health.  They serve as liaison to State and Federal Public Health agencies and provide local implementation of good community health practices.  In many western states, Boards of Health are county-based, serving a large geographical area.  But in New England, most communities have their own Board of Health, increasing local access to both information and services.

Bedford’s Board of Health is an excellent example of the value of small communities funding their own Board of Health.  Members of Bedford’s Board of Health are citizen volunteers, selected by a town-wide election and serve terms of three years.  The Board of Health director is a town employee with specific education and training in Public Health.  Services provided by the Bedford Board of Health are broad, from flu-shots to over sight of Bedford’s “Keeping of Animals” guidelines, to inspections of all local eateries and farms.

The Board of Health meets monthly, meetings are open to the public, and the topics discussed reflect health concerns of the times.  January’s meeting of the Bedford Board of Health included one family’s request to compost their chicken manure, supported by their neighbors, a reminder that flu vaccine is still available in the Board of Health office, a review of the proposed 2016 budget that must be approved by the Bedford Finance Committee, and a discussion of grants available — or not available — for projects such as the tick testing and awareness programs of the past two years.  The Bedford Citizen has run articles in the past detailing the efforts of Heidi Porter, Bedford’s Board of Health director, in organizing a multi-town tick testing project to begin to better understand the tick disease burden residing in various communities.


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