We conducted a literature review in 2011 to determine if accepted governance functions continue to reflect the role of public health governing entities. Reviewing literature and other source documents, as well as consulting with practitioners, resulted in an iterative process that identified 6 functions of public health governance and established definitions for each of these: policy development; resource stewardship; continuous improvement; partner engagement; legal authority; and oversight of a health department. These functions provided context for the role of governing entities in public health practice and aligned well with existing public health accreditation standards. Public health systems research can build from this work in future explorations of the contributions of governance to health department performance.
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