Town appoints Committee on Public Health

Southborough – Sparked by the retirement of the town's longtime public health director, the Southborough Board of Selectmen, at its Aug. 14 meeting, appointed a Committee on Public Health and charged it with coming up with a plan for how not only the public health director will operate, but also the Board of Health and the Health Department.

Paul Pisinski retired recently after serving as the town's public health director since 1993. Pisinski, who has more than 40 years of experience in the field of public health, will serve as a consultant for the town's Board of Health and Health Department for the next two years, working no more than 750 hours a year.

The selectmen said the town has also hired a contractor, who will work another 20 hours a week for the Board of Health and the Health Department.

"We want to make sure the board is available as much as possible," Pisinski said, "but the two of us are going to work about a combined 35 hours a week even though I was working 45 hours a week before my retirement."

At the meeting, Dr. Louis Fazen, chair of the Board of Health, explained how boards of health, over time, have been forced to carry additional burdens. Those burdens have included, Fazen said, terrorist threats in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, as well as the need for more sanitation-related inspections.

"The committee will look at where we would change our focus, and how that will change our personnel," Fazen said. "It's a much more clinical world now, more health related."

Fazen said he would like to see the board increase its health education for residents and do more to prevent illness. He cited a recent report by the surgeon general of the United States, called "Healthy People 2010," which took note of how poorly the United States has fared compared to other countries where longevity and infant mortality are concerned, even though the United States has the most advanced health care, devices and medicines.

"One way to approach the poor showing in health indicators is more emphasis on prevention," Fazen said. "We might not need another CT scanner, but if it [education] will help a child by revealing and preventing nicotine addiction, that would be a way to improve survivorship in the population."

Fazen said a new director will not be brought on board until the Board of Health has determined, with the help of the Committee on Public Health, the direction of the Health Department.

The Committee on Public Health is expected to meet regularly for about six months and formulate a recommendation. The selectmen said they hoped the proposal would be ready for the April 2008 Annual Town Meeting.

Fazen said if it's determined by the committee that a request for additional monies for the Health Department as part of the solution for the new direction of the Board of Health and the Health Department, the request will be made, even though the town is already searching for solutions to properly fund the Police and Fire departments.

"Right now the Board of Health receives about $3.45 per person per year," Fazen said. "I don't know if you can realistically expect to do too much when you're receiving $3.45 per person.

"Hopefully the town understands the role of the Board of Health following 9/11," Fazen continued. "It's an uphill battle for us to ask for more money, we know that, so we won't ask for more money unless doing so will allow us to off er something more to the town."

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