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Position on the Proposal to Eliminate the State Board of Health

Health & Medicine's Executive Director Margie Schaps released the following statement in response to SB2416 which would eliminate the State Board of Health in Illinois:

Health & Medicine strongly opposes the elimination of the State Board of Health, as called for in SB2416.

At a time in our country and state’s history when public health threats are greater than they have been in decades we are disappointed and concerned by the introduction of SB2416 to abolish the State Board of Health.

Illinois’ public health infrastructure should be enhanced rather than diminished, especially at a time when disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies are occurring more frequently. The rise in chronic diseases including obesity and diabetes, the increasing need to detect and prevent foodborne illnesses, the urgent threats from environmentally-related diseases such as lead poisoning and Zika, are just a few recent examples of the real need for more robust public health capacity.

The board was created to provide independent oversight of the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) from a diverse set of perspectives. Since 1998, the 20-member State Board of Health—made up of physicians, preventive medicine experts, medical and public health school faculty, local health department administrators and board of health members, registered nurses, veterinarians, nurses, and business owners, and private citizens—has offer breadth and depth of expertise that cannot necessarily exist within the department. They are not paid except for some travel costs totaling a few thousand dollars per year, making this level of expertise incredibly cost-effective for the department and state taxpayers.

At a time when IDPH has experienced an unprecedented turnover, it is a travesty that the vacancies in the board of health have not been filled by the governor. Given the increased demand for public health and gaps in the department, their expertise should be embraced and capitalized upon, especially during these times of staff shortages and critical public health problems facing the state.

If the move to eliminate the SBOH is being done for administrative convenience, this is not acceptable. If it is based on a perception that the Board is not effective, we should seek ways to make it more effective. Health & Medicine Policy Research Group stands ready to help the department and governor identify and appoint strong public health leaders.