The specific services and programs offered by departments of health vary by state, but they commonly administer federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. State health departments also usually regulate or oversee medical professionals in some way and provide certain emergency services for residents.
Though they are federal programs, Medicaid and Medicare are usually handled at the state level and accounts are managed by the state's department of health. This includes processing applications, monitoring income for ongoing eligibility, and ensuring payments are made.
States also often have some sort of medical boards that regulate professionals practicing medicine in the state. This can include developing requirements for licensure, issuing licenses and handling malpractice issues.
The public health division of a state may also handle a wide range of general services such as issuing birth and death certificates, managing the food-stamps program and other emergency financial assistance, inspecting restaurants and food-preparation facilities, offering family planning services, and monitoring the use and cost of prescription drugs.
A state department of health may also have individual departments for specific issues such as aging, mental health and disabilities. Environmental health, which includes the safety of drinking water and potential issues from radioactive contamination, also usually falls under the purview of a state's health department.