Category Archives: Umair Shah

2017–2018 NACCHO President Dr. Umair A. Shah Shares Highlights from His Term and Describes How LHDs Can Combat the “#InvisibilityCrisis”

Interview by Lindsay Tiffany, Lead of Publications, NACCHO

On June 30, Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Executive Director of Harris County Public Health (HCPH) in Houston, concluded his term as NACCHO President. Dr. Shah is a long-standing and enthusiastic member of NACCHO and has served on a variety of different NACCHO-related groups including the Health Equity and Social Justice Committee, the Global Health Workgroup, the Media Champions Network, and the Finance Committee. He can be found tweeting often from the handle @ushahmd on Twitter. He has served on NACCHO’s Board of Directors since 2014. He recently spoke to NACCHO Voice about his experience as president, the “invisibility crisis” facing local health departments, and what he is looking forward to doing now that his term is over. Continue reading

Three Ways Local Health Departments Can Commemorate Mental Health Month

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

May is Mental Health Month, a time for local health department (LHD) leaders and staff to bring awareness to mental health issues and help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Led by Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), this month provides an important opportunity to reflect on the ways in which local public health agencies can support the mental health of our communities.

Mental health issues affect wide ranges of the populations we serve as LHD leaders and staff. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 44 million American adults, (nearly one in five adults) experienced some form of mental illness. Mental health disorders can include anxiety; attention deficit hyperactivity; bipolar disorder; depression; disruptive, impulse control, and conduct disorders; obsessive-compulsive disorder; schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders; and trauma- and stressor-related disorders. Continue reading

Celebrating National Public Health Week through Collaboration, Engagement, and Action

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

April 2–8 is National Public Health Week (NPHW), a time to recognize the key contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation’s health. The celebration, organized by the American Public Health Association, is commemorated during the first full week in April each year. This year’s theme is “Healthiest Nation 2030: Changing Our Future Together” and underscores the importance of improving health in the places in which people live, learn, work, worship, and play. Each day is dedicated to a topic-specific theme: behavioral health, infectious disease, environmental health, injury and violence prevention, and ensuring the right to health. NPHW presents a terrific opportunity for local health departments (LHDs) to engage partners and community members to raise awareness about the life-saving work we do year-round. Continue reading

The Local Health Department Response to the Zika Virus: Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

Local health departments (LHDs) have been on the front lines of responding to the Zika virus since its emergence as a public health threat in the United States (U.S.) more than two years ago. The virus, spread by Aedes aegypti (L.) and Ae. albopictus Skuse mosquitoes, carries adverse and costly health risks for pregnant women and their babies and has affected communities across the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,395 pregnant women in the U.S. states and the District of Columbia have shown laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection to date. Additionally, NACCHO’s 2017 Forces of Change survey found that confirmed travel-related cases of Zika have been reported in nearly 90% of large LHD jurisdictions. LHDs incorporated a multi-pronged, One-Health approach to responding to the virus that included vector control, epidemiology, environmental public health, maternal and child health, community engagement, and advocacy activities. Continue reading

Local Public Health Spreads Importance of Good Oral Health during Children’s Dental Health Month

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

The oral cavity, including the teeth and surrounding structures, are necessary for adequate nutrition, proper speech and a positive self-image.  Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it continues to be the most common chronic disease of early childhood.1  Dental health can impact school performance when a child has untreated tooth decay with resulting pain that affects their ability to concentrate, sleep at night or even attend school, “more than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental related illness.”2 Taxpayers share approximately 11% of the $113.5 billion spent nationally on dental care expenditures, a percentage that has increased over the years as dental care utilization continues to increase among children.3  Children with cavities in their primary (baby) teeth are three times more likely to develop cavities in their permanent (adult) teeth which could contribute to broader health problems including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.4 Continue reading

Public Health Advocacy: Informing Lawmakers about What Matters Most in Our Communities

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

The Journal of School Health defines health advocacy as “The processes by which the actions of individuals or groups attempt to bring about social and/or organization change on behalf of a particular health goal, program, interest, or population.” 1 It is also one of the main pillars of public health. Local health departments depend on policymakers to enact laws that make our communities safe and promote healthy living. Every day, federal, state, and local decision-makers discuss a myriad of issues, including those related to public health. Through the power of advocacy, we have seat belt, tobacco prevention, safe drinking water, and nutrition labeling laws, just to name a few. For the betterment of our communities, it is imperative that public health professionals who possess expertise and experience in the field, educate lawmakers through evidence-based research. Continue reading

Health Equity Matters: Bridging the Gap between Underserved Populations and Access to Care

By Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, NACCHO President and Executive Director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas

What is Health Equity?

Public health is built on the foundation that all people have a right to health. Health equity is the principle that every person should have the opportunity “to attain their full health potential,” regardless of social, economic or environmental conditions. Achieving health equity requires valuing all individuals and populations equally, acknowledging and repairing historical injustices, and investing in those communities. Across the United States, state and local jurisdictions have made it their mission to reduce and eliminate health inequities in their communities. There are many root causes of health inequities, including racism, class-based oppression, gender inequity, and other forms of systematic injustices. These create societal conditions that influence an individual’s health such as: the quality of education, housing, neighborhood environment, and employment opportunities leading to disproportionate health outcomes, to name a few. Continue reading