Introduction: The cost of providing a basic set of public health services necessary not been well-described. Recent work suggests public health practitioners are unlikely to have the empirically-based financing information necessary to make informed decisions regarding practice. The purpose of this paper is to describe the development of a costing tool used to collect primary data on the number of services provided, staff employed, and costs incurred for two types of mandated environmental health services: food and lodging inspections and onsite water services.

Methods: The tool was iteratively reviewed, revised, and piloted with local health department (LHD) environmental health and finance managers. LHDs (n=15) received technical support to estimate costs for fiscal year 2012.

Results: The tool contained the following sections: Agency/Respondent Information, Service Counts, Direct Labor Costs, Direct Non-Labor Costs, and Indirect/Overhead Costs. The time required to complete the tool ranged from 2 to 12 hours (median = 4).

Implications: LHDs typically did not track costs by program area, nor did they acknowledge indirect costs or costs absorbed by the county. Nonetheless, this costing tool is one of the first to estimate costs associated with environmental health programs at the LHD level and has important implications for practitioners and researchers, particularly when these limitations are recognized.

Costing Tool - version 3.pdf (256 kB)