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Washington's Public Health System

Along with the state Department of Health, Washington's public health system includes 35 local health departments and local health districts (serving 39 counties), the Board of Health, tribal governments and other partners.

Washington State Department of Health

The Department of Health was formed in 1989 to promote and protect public health, monitor health care costs, maintain standards for quality health care delivery and plan activities related to the health of Washington citizens. The Secretary of Health is appointed by the governor. The statutory authority for the Department of Health is in the Revised Code of Washington 43.70.020.

Washington State Board of Health

The 10-member Board of Health provides a citizen forum for the development of public health policy. It recommends strategies and promotes health goals to the Legislature and regulates a number of health activities including drinking water, immunizations and food handling. The Board is housed with the Department of Health although it is an independent entity.

Local Health Departments/Districts

Washington has 31 county health departments, three multi-county health districts and two city-county health departments. We refer to them as local health jurisdictions. They are local government agencies, not satellite offices of the state Department of Health or the State Board of Health. Local health jurisdictions carry out a wide variety of programs to promote health, help prevent disease and build healthy communities. We provide links to local health jurisdiction websites on our local health jurisdiction map page.

Tribal governments

Washington State and the American Indian tribes located in Washington State work together, government-to-government, to address the public health issues that affect all of us. The involvement of Indian Tribes in the development of public health policy promotes locally relevant and culturally appropriate approaches to issues of mutual interest or concern.

Public Health Partners:

The Department of Health works with many health partners including hospitals and clinics, the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine; and state and local community-based organizations, associations and coalitions. It also has close working relationships with federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.