Letter: A Strong and Highly Qualified Board of Health

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The State and localities have been the leading edge of the Covid-19 response, exercising their public health powers and responses based on science-based evidence. Reading has been fortunate to have a subject matter expert, Emmy Dove, serving as the current Chair of the Board of Health. Public Health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their community. Boards of Health are held responsible for disease prevention and control, health and environmental protection, and promoting a healthy community. Boards of Health serve as the local arm of both the Mass. Department of Public Health and the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection.

Covid19 has generated some residents to examine the size of the Reading Board of Health, suggesting an increase from the current three-member to five. I will leave it up to Town Meeting to debate whether size matters. What I do know is that qualifications matter.

A former Select Board Chair once said that being a specialist was not a requirement to serve on the Board of Health. “Not necessary to be a subject matter expert, helpful, but not necessary.” The COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight the importance of both our public health department and our local Board of Health. It is essential to be “specialist” and not a “generalist” when it comes to assuming a role that protects and promotes the health of Reading residents and our community. The fact that many large communities require at least one licensed medical physician to be on their BoH just underscores the importance of public health, health care, or a science-based background to be a requirement for any candidate for the Board of Health.

Reading should support a strong and highly qualified Board of Health to fulfill its fundamental mission.

Are you listening VASC?

Nancy Docktor PMHCNS-BC
Pearl Street

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