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Member Spotlight: Health Department Director Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown Discusses Her Experiences in Public Health and the Benefits of Being a NACCHO Member

Interview by Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

NACCHO’s Member Spotlight series features interviews with local health department leaders and staff about their careers in public health. This interview features Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown, RN, MPH, Health and Human Services Director of the Crook County Health Department in Prineville, OR. She is a member of NACCHO’s Global Climate Change Workgroup, the 2017 Winter Leadership Meeting Committee, and the Leadership Development Institute Community of Practice. Below she shares her path in public health and highlights a few of the challenges her health department is addressing.

Tell us about your career path in public health.

I started my career as a school nurse after completing nursing school and wound up teaching health occupations for 12 years. Afterward, I moved into a more traditional public health role for Lane County (OR) as a clinic nurse. I soon received my bachelor’s degree in health education from the University of Oregon and my master’s degree in public health from Oregon Health and Science University. After working for a year in Lane County, I was offered a management position in Douglas County and was there for five and a half years. Later, I moved to Deschutes County in Bend, OR, for eight and a half years. In 2008, I was offered the director position with the Crook County Health Department. I’ve learned that a rural community health department is where I belong.

What are some of the highlights of your career in public health? What makes the work that you do worthwhile?

In every position I have been in, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people. Working to make a difference in my community is really important to me. I was proud previously to take part in facilitating a focus group with seniors, starting the Public Health Preparedness Program in Deschutes County, and helping my department become one of the smallest Public Health Accreditation Board-accredited health departments in 2014. I have an incredible staff. If I didn’t have such a great staff, working in this position would be much harder. We really pull together as a team to service our community. We also work with other health departments and value learning from each other while encouraging one another to continue moving forward in progressing public health and our respective communities. Yes, achieving accreditation is hard but it’s definitely worth it. In Oregon, we’ve worked hard on the modernization of public health and the new framework. I enjoy mentoring staff and making sure they are the face of public health in the community. It was exciting to serve as the Chair of the Coalition of Local Health Officials during the development of the Modernization of Public Health Law and planning for the future in a new and modern way. I’m always looking to learn from people that I know.

What challenges are you or your health department currently facing?

Funding is always an issue. We’ve had to be really creative here and work with a lot of community partners to be successful. Our biggest challenges in Crook County include continued tobacco issues and how to change the norms. Teen pregnancy prevention is another issue we work hard to address. We just completed a new strategic plan that includes ways to tackle those issues. We have really supportive commissioners as well as a host of new ones so we’re trying to educate them on the role and need for public health and how we work for them in the community. Recently, we invited the two new commissioners to a staff meeting and after each staff member explained their role, the commissioners were amazed at all the work that we do.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in public health since you’ve started in this field?

I think accreditation has been one of the biggest changes I’ve seen since working in public health—that, along with the healthcare transformation movement and the modernization of public health and focus on the foundation capabilities in Oregon. I currently sit on Oregon’s Public Health Advisory Board and we are discussing serious tactics for aligning and coordinating public health, early learning, coordinated care organizations, hospitals, and other partners for a collective impact on health improvements. Although there are many discussions about health improvements, it’s time we take action to support the work of public health and its role in the system. Health departments have always been community-minded and working with our partners is incredibly important. It’s very critical to our future.

How are you positioning yourself and/or your health department for the future?

I would love to retire in about four years or so but in the meantime I’ve been thinking about how to create an effective succession plan. I’d like for my department to make a seamless transition in leadership and want to leave Crook County Health Department in good hands upon my departure. Also, I think about how I can continue working in public health after I retire—whether that be a contract position or helping another health department, I want to continue to pass on my experiences and teachings to others. I love helping people be successful.

How long have you been a member of NACCHO and what value do you find in belonging?

I have been a member of NACCHO since I began working in Deschutes County. I was very involved in NACCHO’s preparedness activities. In 2013, I was invited to speak at NACCHO Annual on healthcare reform in central Oregon. So far, I’ve recruited three other colleagues to attend NACCHO Annual 2017. Not only NACCHO as a whole, but the annual conference has been invaluable—the friendships, innovative ideas, new ways to improve our health department, and just being around other people who are as passionate about the field as I am is rejuvenating. One thing that’s really important to me is that NACCHO provides a voice for smaller local health departments that are often forgotten.

What do you enjoy doing in your time away from work?

I have a really amazing husband who supports the work that I do. We do a lot of activities like hiking, walking, boating, and gardening. I also really enjoy painting and playing with my Springer Spaniel named Max.

Tobacco Cessation for Cancer Survivors: A Resource Guide for Local Health Departments

Local health departments (LHDs) play a vital role in minimizing the impact of cancer in their communities. NACCHO supports LHDs in planning, implementing, and evaluating evidence-based cancer prevention and control strategies to improve population health. With that said, NACCHO has released of Tobacco Cessation for Cancer Survivors: A Resource Guide for Local Health Departments. This guide details the importance of tobacco cessation for cancer survivors and features recommendations on how local health departments can use existing resources to link cessation services to cancer survivors. This resource guide was created through collaboration with American Cancer Society under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooperative agreement DP1315 National Support to Enhance Implementation of Comprehensive Cancer Control Activities.

Download Tobacco Cessation for Cancer Survivors: A Resource Guide for Local Health Departments from the NACCHO website today.

Improving the Health of Communities by Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Today

By Claude-Alix Jacob, MPH, NACCHO President and Chief Public Health Officer for the Cambridge Public Health Department (MA)

The local health department (LHD) workforce is the backbone of the nation’s public health infrastructure. While healthcare issues have historically overshadowed the public health tenets of prevention and population health, LHD leaders and staff are truly on the front lines of keeping U.S. residents healthy and safe. Despite its critical importance, the LHD workforce is facing numerous challenges that the nation must confront to ensure the health and well-being of our communities. Continue reading

National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Building Community, Building Hope

By Margaret Carr, NACCHO Senior Program Assistant

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) encourages local health departments (LHDs) to engage their communities throughout the month of April in promoting child abuse prevention efforts. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the theme this year is Building Community, Building Hope.

Child Abuse and Violence

Child abuse and neglect continues to be a major public health issue in the United States. In 2014, 702,000 victims of child abuse and neglect were reported to child protective services.[i]

Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of violence. Early experiences and environments shape the architecture of children’s developing brains,[ii] which in turn influences the connections their brains make. For example, children who grow up in environments where they do not feel safe, learn to better recognize and respond to threats. As such, this can lead to an increased fight-or-flight response which can override other skills that enable non-violent conflict resolution. Exposure to child abuse and neglect as well as other traumatic stressors termed adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), lead to short- and long-term health and social problems.[iii] Violence is preventable and LHDs can work with their communities to ensure every child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment.

Child abuse is just one form of violence children may experience, however, the many forms of violence are related and often share root causes. Addressing the shared risk and protective factors for violence can prevent child abuse and violence across a life span.

The Role of Local Health Departments

LHDs play an essential role in preventing child abuse and creating a safe, healthy community for all of their residents. Interventions that include protective factors, which are those that reduce risk and encourage positive and healthy development, are proven to be successful.[iv] NACCHO’s resource, Local Health Department Efforts to Prevent Child Maltreatment highlights five evidenced-based parenting programs. LHDs can implement interventions such as home visiting and/or other parenting programs, which provide parents with the necessary skills to promote the health and well-being of their children. While these programs are beneficial, prevention efforts must go beyond individuals and families. LHDs can work with community partners (e.g. hospitals, schools, social services, non-profits) to change social norms and increase community connectedness for families. Reducing social isolation can reduce the risk for multiple forms of violence.[v] LHDs can help move the community to take collective responsibility for all children.

We encourage you to share child abuse prevention messages throughout the month of April!

Potential Messages to Share:








Live Well Allegheny: Paving the Way to Better Health Outcomes

logo_na2017NACCHO Annual 2017 will take place July 11­–13 in Pittsburgh. In the following blog post, Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker shares how cross-sectoral collaboration has created new opportunities for improving the health of Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County.

By Karen Hacker, MD, MPH, Director, Allegheny County (PA) Health Department

Welcome to Allegheny County and its county seat, the City of Pittsburgh. Allegheny County is comprised of 130 municipalities and has a population of over 1.2 million residents (ACS 2013). Our region today provides an example of a dramatic post-industrial revitalization fueled by the health care and educational sectors. This progress is, in part, the result of a culture of collaboration between private and public sectors focused on improving the health and well-being of the region. Government, community- and faith-based organizations, academia, and foundations have worked together to achieve significant advances that are impacting the health of Allegheny County residents. These include the transformation of the riverfront, the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, the Pittsburgh Promise, a $250 million effort to promote academic success, and the implementation of award-winning job training programs. The large and committed foundation community has been deeply involved in supporting these efforts and ensuring that progress continues. As County Executive Rich Fitzgerald often says, “We come together to get things done.” Continue reading

Member Spotlight: Health Department Director Jeff Kuhr Provides His Insights on Changes in Public Health and Shares the Value of NACCHO’s Advocacy Work

Interview by Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

NACCHO’s Member Spotlight series features interviews with local health department leaders and staff about their careers in public health. This interview features Jeff Kuhr, PhD, Director of the Mesa County Health Department in Grand Junction, CO. He has served on many boards and committees, including the current NACCHO Board of Directors and previously on the Accreditation Preparation and Quality Improvement Committee. He has been a member of NACCHO for 12 years. Below, he explains how his career in public health began, shares the highlights of his career, and discusses the challenges facing his department. Continue reading

Embracing the Community Chief Health Strategist Framework: A Q&A with NACCHO President Claude-Alix Jacob

Interview by Lindsay Tiffany, Lead of Publications, NACCHO

Claude-Alix Jacob, MPH, is Chief Public Health Officer for the Cambridge Public Health Department (MA) and the 2016–2017 NACCHO President. Jacob is a long-standing and dedicated member of NACCHO and has served on a variety of different advisory groups including the Annual Conference Workgroup, the Health Equity and Social Justice Committee, the Survive and Thrive Workgroup, and the Finance Committee. He has served on NACCHO’s Board of Directors since 2010. He recently spoke to NACCHO Voice about his perspective on the Community Chief Health Strategist framework.

  • What does the concept of the Community Chief Health Strategist mean to you and how do you and your colleagues serve in this role in your community? How can other local health departments operationalize this framework?

Building a culture of health in Cambridge has been part of a major health improvement initiative led by the Cambridge Public Health Department. The concept of the community chief health strategist has been actualized through the development of the city’s health agenda. In 2014, our department completed a comprehensive health assessment and engaged city and community partners in developing the city’s first-ever community health improvement plan. What we learned through the process is that we have convening power—the ability (and the space in which) to bring partners to the table to look at our community’s health needs. We conducted a citywide survey, held focus groups with various demographic groups, and interviewed key stakeholders and representatives of the city’s leadership. Then, by consensus we agreed on the priority areas for the city through 2020, which include mental health and substance abuse, violence, housing, and healthy eating/active living. Continue reading