State and local health departments play a critical role in helping national health agencies to provide more precise and localized healthcare services based on the needs of the population and region. Each state and jurisdiction organizes, finances, and maintains its own health departments that have the authority and competency to secure public health. They provide health services, coordinate health-related programs, and promote state-wide health objectives. Most often, state and local departments maintain a close relationship to coordinate health policy, communicate standards, and divide public health responsibilities based on the resources of each department.
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State and local health departments often have intertwining responsibilities on which they collaborate or implement on different scales. These include keeping physical environments safe and preventing the occurrence and spread of disease. It is done by minimizing health hazards and targeting disease outbreaks. The departments are also meant to respond to any disasters or emergency, having the emergency plans and resources to provide first responder services.
It is the role of both local and state departments to promote and protect community health. This is done by providing access to healthcare services and infrastructure. Also, using public health initiatives such as vaccination, education, and elimination of any health-influencing hazards are all critical. The departments coordinate policies, funding, and training to ensure all these services (UNC Gillings, 2015).
The Florida Department of Health has the primary mission to “protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts” (Florida Department of Health, 2014, par. 1). It does so by participating in public health by identifying risks, maintaining a safe environment, detecting and preventing disease, and promoting healthy lifestyles. Its three pillars are health protection, health promotion and disease prevention, and health treatment.
The department focuses strongly on providing access to healthcare, ensuring adequate response to a crisis, and engaging in disease prevention through public health programs. Local programs build on this by implementing community-based initiatives such as immunization programs, educational seminars, and population-based health promotions. Local departments can work with schools and community centers to reach populations much more directly than state-level programs.
Florida Department of Health. (2014). Mission, vision and values. Web.
UNC Gillings. (2015). What do local health departments do for your community? Web.