Dear LA Community,
BARBARA FERRER PhD, MPH, MEd
DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Celebrating Achievements During Public Health Week
This past year has been an unprecedented one for our local, national, and international Public Health communities. Public Health Week is a time to acknowledge the extraordinary work being done by LA County Public Health and our colleagues across the world. Now, more than ever before, our actions are saving lives and helping to advance work that supports an equitable distribution of resources essential for health and well-being. For the past year, we have confronted extremely challenging times in our professional careers and personal lives. Thousands of our coworkers willingly undertook new roles to respond to changing needs among county residents and workers during the pandemic. Public Health’s collective efforts have gone above and beyond to support each other and serve 10 million County residents.
We typically celebrate Public Health Week with a series of public events throughout the week. Due to the pandemic, we will miss another opportunity to come together to honor this work. Taking a moment to reflect on this year’s Public Health Week themes, below are highlighted examples of tremendous efforts across the department to improve the health and wellbeing of county residents, and centers our efforts on collaboration, equity, and justice.
For almost two years, LA County Public Health has worked alongside County departments, community representatives, and advocates to reimagine our justice system where social service and public health resources take precedent over arrest and jail through the Alternatives to Incarceration initiative. In November, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure J, which allocates at least 10% of the County’s unrestricted funding to racial injustice through community investments – youth development, job training, small business development, supportive housing services, and alternatives to incarceration. Public Health continues to work alongside partners to build capacity to support a comprehensive community-based system of care and key reforms to our criminal justice system, particularly for residents living with addictions, mental illness, and serious chronic health conditions.
Advancing Racial Equity and Strengthening Community
This has been a difficult time for our County and nation as we continue to bear witness to the public exposure of police brutality against Black men and women, growing reports of anti-Asian hate crimes, and the health inequities in COVID-19 among Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander and Indigenous residents. These are heartbreaking reminders of our society’s long history of systemic racism and discrimination. We are confronted with the additional work needed to ensure fundamental rights to people in our country, regardless of skin color.
In spite of the pandemic, Public Health sustained efforts – including violence prevention, environmental justice, and eliminating disproportionality in maternal and infant mortality and sexually transmitted diseases – alongside County and committed partners to implement strategies to address the impact of racism and other forms of social marginalization on health outcomes. Through the Board of Supervisors’ leadership, the County launched the Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion initiative, where Public Health plays a leadership role to build on our collective efforts to shift the narrative and redirect resources to reflect the principles of racial justice and inclusion.
Uplifting Mental Health and Wellness
Public Health has come together to acknowledge the burden of racism, discrimination, and oppression that members of our workforce bear, and we have shown up to support each other. Through Department-wide discussions on the impact of racism and violence, we reflected on our individual perspectives and implemented efforts to support collective healing and change. Additionally, our staff facilitated new ways to support mental and physical health during these trying times. Whether it is daily mile activity, a meditation moment, self-care learning opportunities, or thank-you packages hand delivered by our union partners, Public Health has created a much-needed and appreciated culture of kindness and support.
Building a COVID-19 Response and Elevating the Essential Workforce
Throughout this difficult year, our Public Health team has shown up day-in and day-out in extraordinary ways to: sustain a robust contact tracing system; develop and enforce health officer orders; manage a massive number of outbreaks; process lab specimens with quick turnarounds; conduct community outreach and education; disseminate communication tools to reach our County’s diverse audiences in a multitude of language; liaise with various sectors to protect workers, students and residents; track and evaluate data to guide our efforts and provide accurate and timely information to partners and residents; create and support an extensive network of vaccinators; administer vaccine to eligible residents and workers and manage county vaccination sites; and provide operational and administrative support that makes this work possible.
Each of these efforts – and countless more – require a tireless commitment from our entire workforce with continued dedication, compassion, and phenomenal teamwork, despite the exhaustion and fatigue we all feel. The support and kindness expressed for colleagues and the community each day by the entire team is a testament to the wonderful community that is the LA County Department of Public Health.