Transforming the Health Department
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a cross-sector partnership of the City's Health Department, schools, businesses, and nonprofit organizations has made public health and prevention a major component of the ongoing recovery effort. Before Katrina the City’s approach to health was the same as that found in many places across the country—focused more on clinical care rather than prevention and public health, according to Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Health Commissioner for the City of New Orleans. She said using the Public Health Accreditation Board’s accreditation blueprint as a roadmap has helped the department go quickly from “broken and outmoded” to a modern public health agency.
That is how we’re getting from a place where we were treating the consequences of poor health decisions and the impacts of social determinants of health, and actually move into a place where we’re upstream and we can prevent it, but then work with other sectors,” said DeSalvo.
But she knows that no one health department can solve every health challenge in a community. One of the biggest keys was bringing together a collection of partners that reflect all the social determinants of health and help ensure health is a consideration in every new policy.
“As we rebuild our roads, buildings, parks and playgrounds, we are thinking about not only health from a physical activity and a nutritional standpoint, but also mental health and addressing those chronic disease needs that communities have,” said DeSalvo.