The Future of Public Health
New State Health Director Visits East St. Louis
Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck talks with local health officials
EAST ST. LOUIS – Newly appointed Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Acting Director, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, today shared with local health officials in the metro east area his vision for the future of public health, eliminating health disparities and chronic disease, and providing greater access to health care in Illinois.
Dr. Hasbrouck also championed Governor Pat Quinn’s $1-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax as an effective way to close the $2.7 billion Medicaid deficit and improve health benefits statewide by curbing the number of smokers.
“Local health departments are the front lines of public health and are our strongest allies in the effort to address and eliminate health disparities, provide access to quality health care and improve the overall health of Illinois residents,” said Dr. Hasbrouck.
One of the director’s priorities in preventing chronic disease is combating tobacco use and how the proposed cigarette tax can greatly help in this effort. In every state that has significantly raised cigarette taxes, pack sales sharply decreased. Every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by 3 to 5-percent, reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5 percent and decreases the number of children who smoke by at least 6 percent, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
In addition to improving the overall health and quality of life for those who quit or cut back, raising the cigarette tax would also slash health care costs over time. The projected savings over five years tops $17 million for medical treatments for cardiovascular disease, $8.5 million for lung cancer, and more than $9 million in overall savings to the Medicaid program – encouraging numbers for a state that currently spends $1.5 billion of its $14 billion Medicaid budget treating smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer and emphysema.
As the former public health director (commissioner) of the Ulster County Department of Public Health in New York, Dr. Hasbrouck understands that public health happens locally – everything from providing school immunizations to investigating foodborne illnesses. Some of the community programs IDPH has awarded grants for in the metro east area include Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, HIV/AIDS Ryan White CARE Act, the Immunization Program, Illinois Tobacco Free Communities, Wellness on Wheels, Heart Smart for Teens and others.
To continue IDPH’s partnership with local health departments and community-based and faith-based organizations, the Department is now accepting applications for We Choose Health Community Transformation Grants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently awarded IDPH an almost $4.8 million Community Transformation Grant, which will be sub-granted to organizations working to fight against obesity, tobacco use and other chronic diseases.
Chronic disease and poor health are not problems the health department, community organizations or health care can solve on its own. It will take all of us working together to reduce chronic disease and help people live longer, healthier lives.
Dr. Hasbrouck will continue to visit local health departments in Illinois to learn about health issues each face and to develop strategies on how the state can help support local efforts.