New state director pushing counties to ‘Choose Health’
By Denise Linke For The Beacon-News June 15, 2012 6:40PM
Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck has been named the new director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Updated: July 19, 2012 6:06AM
WHEATON — Illinois’ new public health director wants to help state residents slim down, muscle up and stop inflicting tobacco fumes on themselves and the people around them.
And he believes the best way to do that is to help local public health agencies identify the obstacles that are keeping their clients unhealthy and find ways to fix them.
“All public health happens locally,” Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said Friday at the DuPage County Health Department, where he conferred with officials from DuPage, Kane, Will and McHenry counties. “Each area of the state has its own problems, and each area needs its own solutions.”
Hasbrouck, the former public health director in New York’s Ulster County, spent 11 years working for the Centers for Disease Control’s Epidemic Intelligence Service. He tracked down and treated disease outbreaks in Jamaica, Nigeria, Haiti, Namibia and Vietnam.
“I’ve seen public health practiced at every level — from big cities to remote areas that had little or no access to health care. I think I can apply the innovations I learned (in those places) to rural Illinois,” he said.
His new initiative, We Choose Health, is targeted to improve health care and lifestyle choices in rural areas throughout the state that don’t have adequate medical facilities or public health education. Using a $25 million CDC grant, he plans to award four-year grants of up to $300,000 per year to local agencies that launch programs to reduce smoking in public places and apartment houses; make healthy foods more available while making junk food harder to get; provide more public places for walking, cycling and exercising; help children walk or cycle to school and eat more healthy foods at school; promote breastfeeding; and support social and emotional health in schools.
While CDC restrictions make DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties ineligible for the grants because they’re too urban, Hasbrouck said he can offer public health officials advice on how to achieve the same goals.
“For example, agencies can make joint agreements with school districts to let the public use school gyms and tracks to exercise,” he suggested.
Agencies in DeKalb, McHenry and Kendall counties can apply for the We Choose Health grants, despite being part of the Chicago metropolitan area, because they have a higher percentage of agricultural areas and fewer hospitals.
Hasbrouck, who took office in May, has made 10 trips to different regions of the state to learn more about each area’s situations and needs. Friday’s visit was the last scheduled for his tour.
“I think I learned a lot from these visits. They’ll help me work with these areas in the future,” he said.