Happy New Year to all of you! (En Español)
BARBARA FERRER PhD, MPH, MEd
DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
DECEMBER 31, 2018
I’VE CREATED THIS MONTHLY MESSAGE AS A WAY TO TALK WITH YOU about the work that public health employees do every day and the issues that are important for keeping our community healthy. Together our goal of living in a community where everyone is healthy and safe can be a reality. I hope that you will take time each month to read my message.
AS WE LOOK BACK, IN THE LAST TWO YEARS, DPH HAS MADE HEALTH EQUITY A CENTRAL PART OF ALL OUR WORK. Health Equity means that everyone has the opportunities and resources needed for their best health. Right now, where you live, how much money you have, and the color of your skin may affect your access to quality education, full-time employment with good wages and benefits, healthy and affordable foods, green space and other opportunities that are linked to well-being. In all our work, DPH considers the ways certain communities may lack the resources needed for good health. We plan our programs, services and campaigns to make sure that those who are most at risk are reached.
THE LA COUNTY HEALTH AGENCY’S CENTER FOR HEALTH EQUITY WAS ESTABLISHED AT DPH IN 2017 TO ADDRESS THE COMPLEX FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO POOR HEALTH FOR CERTAIN GROUPS. In 2018, the Center asked for advice and recommendations from LA County residents, health care and community partners, and other experts to better understand the ways race, income, and geography impact health in our community. We are using this information to create a plan for addressing the many ways health is influenced by racial and economic injustice. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we join and support efforts by residents and community leaders to create a more just distribution of the resources needed for well-being – equity is the most important issue facing our community today.
THIS PAST YEAR WE HAVE SEEN THE DEVASTATING IMPACT OF FIRES ON OUR COMMUNITIES. The DPH is a first responder at these times. During the recent Woolsey Fire, more than 100 staff were sent to areas affected to help with evacuation, shelters and repopulation. We staffed four Red Cross shelters with our nurses to ensure those staying there were connected to care and protected from diseases that can spread when many people are living in the same space. We monitored air quality and developed protocols for the safe removal of waste and hazardous materials. And we worked with local Fire Departments to safely evacuate those who require electricity-powered medical equipment, dialysis and other life-saving services. As residents affected by the fires return to their neighborhoods, DPH joins with others at the Disaster Recovery Centers to help with repopulating, rebuilding, and addressing health concerns. We are proud to be a part of the amazing community of first responders and disaster assistance teams in LA County – their expertise and bravery are an inspiration.
IN 2018, DPH INCREASED EFFORTS TO PREVENT AND TREAT SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS (SUD), A CONDITION THAT EFFECTS AN ESTIMATED 740,000 PEOPLE IN LA COUNTY. Changes in Medi-Cal expanded who is eligible for coverage and increased the services available for people with SUD. DPH is facilitating more treatment to more residents by providing funding and support to 55 sites throughout the county that provide face-to-face screening and connection to services for those with SUD. We have established a 24/7 Substance Abuse Service Hotline where callers can be screened and connected to treatment. A real-time website enables the general public and providers to find an SUD treatment site with available appointments.
If you are or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, help is available.
- Call 844-804-7500 to reach the Substance Abuse Service Helpline and be screened for and connected to treatment
- Visit http://sapccis.ph.lacounty.gov/sbat/ for the Service and Bed Availability tool, a real-time updated list of available treatments centers
There were many more accomplishments in 2018. We are an organization of hard-working and talented professionals, and I wish I was able to list every single person’s contribution. From innovative work on violence prevention, to rapid response during disease outbreaks, I am honored to be a part of a team that is such a positive force for health in our community.
Looking forward to 2019, I am optimistic we will make many strides using Equity as the lens with which we do our work and look forward to implementing a Health Equity Action Plan. We will be focused on reducing the high rate of infant mortality among African Americans. We will be looking for ways to expand and improve our efforts to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections. We will remain committed to reducing exposures to hazardous materials and ensuring clean water, air and soil. We will continue to help prevent chronic diseases through promoting conditions in our neighborhoods that support healthy eating, active living and a tobacco and nicotine-free life. And we will be part of vibrant partnerships with residents, community organizations, county departments, and our Board of Supervisors to ensure that all residents have the resources needed for good health.
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My very best for peace in the new year,