Citizens Advisory Boards

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Over the years, many public health leaders have defined the mission of public health. One interpretation, made in the Institute of Medicine's report The Future of Public Health (1988), defines this mission as "fulfilling society's interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy." A common theme in most definitions is reflected by the words public, health, and society.

Public health services are best provided when they are part of organized community effort. Most public health officials recognize the value of citizen involvement for the success of public health programs. For this reason, advisory boards representing diverse social, geographical, and professional interests are frequently appointed to provide suggestions about public health needs and programs. Advisory boards can expand the community's involvement in public health decisions, bring diverse viewpoints together for a common good, and act as a communication link between the community and official public health agencies.

The importance of community advisory boards to public health is particularly critical at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The core functions of public health, as defined in The Future of Public Health and the Essential Services of Public Health (1994), and as formulated through the Public Health Steering Committee, increase the importance of advisory board involvement in the delivery of these functions.

Advisory boards, as the name suggests, can only make recommendations. The appointing authority has the responsibility to evaluate and incorporate appropriate recommendations from a well-selected advisory board in the development of public health policy.

Ned E. Baker

(see also: Essential Public Health Services; Future of Public Health )


Hanlon, John J. (1994). Principles of Public Health Administration. St. Louis, MO: C. V. Mosby Co.

Harrell, J. A.; Baker, E. A.; and Essential Services Working Group (1994). "The Essential Services of Public Health." Leadership in Public Health 3:2731.

Institute in Medicine (1998). The Future of Public Health. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.