In 1866 the original Local Health Law designated the mayor and members of the town council or the township trustees in the rural areas as the local board of health. The law gave them the authority to establish regulations for public health and safety, to control nuisances, and to regulate sources of filth and causes of sickness in communities.
In 1967 Chapter 137 of the Code of Iowa marked the beginning of a new era of public health in Iowa. Each county was required to establish a five member local board of health with one member being a physician licensed by the state of Iowa. The county board of supervisors would appoint members to the local board. The law provided cities with populations greater than 25,000 with the option to establish a city board of health. Counties and cities could form district boards of health.
Local boards of health have responsibility for public health in their jurisdiction. They support local public health vision, mission, and advocacy and encourage community involvement in setting public health priorities. In addition, local boards of health have been given the responsibility to oversee utilization of the Local Public Health Services Contract.
Serving on a local board of health is an honorable and noteworthy task. The success of public health in meeting the challenges of the new millennium will depend on capable and dedicated leadership by the local boards of health.