Each week, Abington News is asking the three candidates for the Board of Health a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 30. These three candidates are running for two 3-year seats on the board.
Candidate responses are published as submitted, in the order they were received, and were not edited.
This week’s question is: Sound public health policy requires a balance of education, regulation, and enforcement and the rights of business owners and individuals. How do you evaluate the best way to strike that balance?
Responses from Week 2 can be found here.
Abington Community Access & Media has also released interviews with each of the candidates.
I think common sense, common courtesy and an open mind is the best way to approach sound public health policy.
A health board filled with people who have different views and varying backgrounds would be very helpful. Having a nurse on the board would be a great asset.
Allowing all sides of an issue to be discussed without censorship is vital to making the residents and businesses feel heard and involved.
All meetings should be open and allow comments and feedback. Having open times when the board members can be accessed without having to follow the rules of a meeting structure would also be helpful.
We need to remember the board represents the community, as opposed to just ruling over the community. Humility and transparency are essential for a community to trust their elected officials.
I am a team player and I see myself working with businesses to ensure health guidelines are clear from the get-go. I want to empower businesses to follow safety criteria so their clientele keep coming back. Acting with an educational mindset would hopefully limit the need for enforcement because all parties would be on the same page: serving the community with safe practices & operations. This can be in relation to food establishments, (of which we have 70 in Abingron!) pools, tattoo parlors, tanning salons and Vape stores.
I want our community to have access to the services they desire, so long as the public is being treated to clean, safe, violation-free operations. The BOH has a responsibility to our community members, and if appointed to the BOH my top priority will always be the health and well being of the Abington residents.
Our local businesses are serving the public, and I in turn want to serve the businesses by making sure they have all information they need to serve the community at a high performance level when it comes to public health.
I can bring professionalism, a team player attitude, and an eagerness to form strong ties with our businesses and the community.
Balance in public health polices is one of the more difficult challenges of being on the board. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 111 § 31 states that “[b]oards of health may make reasonable heath regulations.” What exactly does reasonable mean? That’s what the board must constantly decide. It is a balancing act between education, enforcement, and the rights of business owners and individuals. Often those things are at odds with each other and the reason why each regulation and issue must be evaluated for this balance on a case by case basis.
So how can the Board best strike that balance? I think there three ways we can do that: refrain from enacting stricter regulations or policies than the Commonwealth unless necessary, ensure that our regulating and policy making is in the best interest of the protection of public health, and consulting members of the community that will be affected by the regulation or policy.
As mentioned above, Boards of Health may enact reasonable health regulations. Creating regulations or modifying regulations just for the sake of doing so, is not reasonable and most times not needed. It is generally in the best interest of our community and for that of balance in public health policy to keep the Commonwealth’s regulations unless an issue is particularly prevalent or popular that requires more of our attention.
The mission of the Abington Board of Health is to protect, preserve and promote the health and well-being of all Abington residents. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court states that the focus of public health is to protect the health of every member of the community, regardless of geography or location. This principal is where our focus should be and the rule and guide to which we test whether we need to address a particular issue. If the point of our policy or regulation is not to protect, preserve, or promote public health, then it is not a policy we should adopt.
Lastly, consulting the community in policy making is important. Last fall for example, the board reviewed our Tobacco and Body Art regulations for updating in line with the Commonwealth and current practices. During this time, we invited experts such as DJ Wilson, Tobacco Control Director and Public Health Liaison for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and body art practitioners from the Town of Abington. Having this perspective was paramount to our considerations in reasonable regulation creation. The Board of Health is not a board of experts. We are a board of concerned citizens who will utilize the expertise and experience of experts to make the best decision for the community we serve.