Ask L.A. Board to Support Public Health as an Independent Department
Join Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the former Director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, and Prevention Institute’s Larry Cohen and Manal Aboelata in explaining why a merger of the Departments of Public Health, Mental Health, and Health Services in L.A. County could dramatically affect the health, safety, and quality of life of 10 million Angelenos.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will soon decide whether to consolidate the Department of Public Health— a national leader in quality, effective prevention— and the Mental Health and Health Services Departments into a single, mega-agency. In an op-ed published yesterday in the Los Angeles Daily News and companion papers across the region, Jonathan, Larry and Manal explain that, historically, when public health and health services departments are integrated, the bulk of attention goes to medical care.
Yet research indicates 70% of what determines our health is behavior and community conditions— the province of public health. Indeed, that’s why the L.A. County Board of Supervisors separated the Department of Public Health from the Department of Health Services back in 2006. The outcome, as the op-ed notes, is that “Life expectancy in L.A. County [after 2006] has increased and death rates have declined by double digits for coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and infant mortality.”
Why turn the clock backward on successes like these? Especially when preserving health saves money — on average, every $1 spent on quality chronic disease prevention at the community level saves $5.60 in healthcare costs.
There is an alternative to consolidation, which we support along with 129 other healthcare, mental health and public health organizations. It calls for an Office of Healthcare Enhancement that would support collaboration across the departments, but avoid putting all three departments under an umbrella agency dominated by clinical services. Momentum is continuing to build, but time is short.
For those of you in L.A. County, Contact your County Supervisor to support an independent and empowered Department of Public Health. And please forward to your LA colleagues.
Angelenos deserve a well-funded and focused commitment to community health, equity, and prevention of disease and injury, regardless of where they live. Anything less would be a disservice to the 10 million residents of L.A. County, particular those in low-income communities and communities of color.
Read the complete article at the Los Angeles Daily News.