Public Health in Washington State


Washington State has a decentralized governmental public health system characterized by local control and partnerships. Along with the state Department of Health, the system includes 35 local public health departments and local health districts (serving 39 counties), the state Board of Health, tribal governments and other partners.

Washington State Department of Health

The Department of Health promotes and protects public health, monitors health care costs, maintains standards for quality health care delivery and plans activities related to the health of Washington citizens. The Department's programs and services help prevent illness and injury, promote healthy places to live and work, provide education to help people make good health decisions and ensure our state is prepared for emergencies.

Washington State Board of Health

Established by the State Constitution, 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.

County Government (Local Public Health)

Washington State law gives primary responsibility for the health and safety of Washington residents to 39 county governments. In Washington State the governmental public health system consists of 35 local public health jurisdictions (LHJs) that work with the state Department of Health. In three cases, county legislative authorities have formed multi-county health districts.

Federally Recognized Tribes

In Washington State, tribes and urban Indian health clinics have been working formally to advance tribal-state collaboration on the delivery of health care services for a decade. The involvement of Indian tribes in the development of public health and human services 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.