The following information comes from the NH Health Officers Manual, NH Dept. of Health and Human Services Health Officer Liaison Unit.
Local health officials have a critical role in effective local and regional environmental and public health systems and are responsible for three critical functions. The first is to enforce applicable New Hampshire laws and administrative rules (i.e. regulations), as well as local ordinances and regulations enacted by your community. The second critical function is to serve as a liaison between state officials, local elected officials, and your community on issues concerning local environmental and public health. The third is to be a leader and active participant in efforts to develop regional environmental and public health capacities. These roles have become more important than ever as our state faces continuing outbreaks of disease and demands greater emphasis on public health emergency preparedness.
Some Examples of Local Health Officials Roles and Responsibilities:
- Communicable Diseases: Health officers may be called upon to assist the Division of Public Health Services (DPHS), Bureau of Communicable Disease as requested during disease outbreaks. A primary role is to assist in disseminating educational materials throughout your city or town.
- Emergency Response: Health officers should contact their local Emergency Management Director, to both participate in the development of local Emergency Operations Plans, and discuss their role within the community’s existing plan. Health officers also act as liaisons to local citizens by linking them to state, local and federal resources and by distributing educational materials from the state and federal agencies during the response to, and recovery from, an emergency. Health officers should also participate in regional public health planning initiatives.
- Public Education: Health officers are often well positioned to take advantage of opportunities to provide education to residents, local officials, and public health system partners. This is achieved by disseminating materials produced by local, state and national partners, sharing ... expertise with individuals and groups in your community, and educating local officials and other partners about important environmental health issues and needs.
- Public Health Nuisances: Health officers may conduct sanitary investigations into complaints and nuisances that may endanger public health. These may include garbage, insects, unsanitary living conditions, rodents, and safe drinking water inspections.
- Septic Sytems: Health officers may inspect septic systems to determine if a system has failed and, when necessary, coordinate with the NH Department of Environmental Services to certify septic system failure. The health officer may perform a dye test and a test of suspected sewage to confirm system failure. Depending on town ordinances, a health officer may also witness test pits, inspect repaired and new system installations, and review and approve septic system design plans. Many health officers report that becoming licensed as a septic system installer and/or designer is good preparation for this role.
- Rental Housing (RSA 48A): Health officer may enforce minimum standards for rental housing, including: safe drinking water, availability of hot water, garbage control, properly functioning septic systems, vermin control, adequate heat, and that walls and roofs do not leak.
- Health Facilities: Health officers inspect new or modified health facilities to certify that they meet local health codes. These include hospitals, nursing homes, massage therapy establishments, and health club facilities.
- Childcare/Foster Homes: Health officers inspect\approve facilities used to provide childcare and the homes of people serving as foster parents to assure they meet local health codes. Many times these inspections are done in conjunction with representatives from local fire and zoning departments.
- Food-Borne Illness: Health officers may respond to complaints and report cases of suspected or known violations of the Food Code to the DPHS Food Protection Section. In conjunction with the DPHS Food Protection Section, health officers may be asked to contact food service establishments in the event of a food-borne disease outbreak.
- Mosquito-Borne Illness: Health officers play an important role in disseminating educational materials to the community regarding West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
- Rabies: Health officers serve as a local resource for information on rabies.
- Lead: Health officers may conduct lead paint poisoning inspections with a DPHS lead inspector upon request. The DPHS Health Homes Lead Poisoning Prevention Program may also request that a local health officer verify whether lead hazard reduction activities are taking place, or check to determine if a child under the age of 5 resides in a particular dwelling unit.
- Drinking Water: Health officers may test any public\private water supply suspected of being unsafe, per directives from the Department of Environmental Services.
- Public Swimming Places: Health officers may test water per directives from the Department of Environmental Services.
- Smoking: Health officers may be asked to follow up on complaints and violations of the smoking law, at the request of DPHS.
|Greg Aucoin||Health Officer/ Rescue Chief|