Chicago City Council Budget Hearing
Remarks of Bechara Choucair, M.D.
Commissioner, Department of Public Health
October 23, 2012
Good morning Madam Chair and honorable members of the City Council.
Last year at this time, I sat before you and described our planned 2012 focus on realignment, reform and reinvesting in our communities. Before sharing our plans for 2013, I want to provide you with a brief update on the reforms and changes we’ve made to improve access to healthcare services and the quality of care provided to Chicago residents.
The transformation of our clinical care model has enabled CDPH to focus more intently on our core public health functions. These priorities are reflected throughout our Healthy Chicago public health agenda, released last August. While we will be issuing an annual progress report in the next two months, I can report now that working closely with public health stakeholders and other partners we have begun implementation of 85% our 193 strategies.
Our 2013 budget has been built to support Healthy Chicago, and a focus on three core areas is key to the successful attainment of our Healthy Chicago goals: (a) Investing in Children’s Health, (b) Reinvesting in Partnerships, and (c) Capturing New Public Health Funding.
Investment in Children’s Health
We established an Office of Adolescent and School Health last year to create synergies and better focus our resources to promote children’s health. Consistent with the Mayor’s planned Investment in Our Children, in 2013 we will expand existing programs and initiate others for children attending Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
Reinvesting in Partnerships
A guiding principal of our Healthy Chicago agenda is that no one entity alone – neither public nor private - can make the differences needed to achieve a healthy city. Thus, we will strengthen and reinvest in partnerships
CDPH will commit more than $90 million in grants and other public health resources to community, organizational and institutional partners to provide a broad array of services aligned with our Healthy Chicago goals. A few examples of new investments follow.
We will continue to strengthen our partnerships with corporations and other large organizations that can assist us in meeting our Healthy Chicago goals. One example is our recent partnership with Walgreens to promote and increase access to influenza vaccines. With CDPH's assistance, Walgreens has established partnerships with the Department of Family and Support Services to administer influenza vaccine to senior citizens at Senior Service Sites and to students, their families and staff at Chicago Public Schools. In addition, Walgreens will be joining CDPH and other community partners as we promote and provide influenza vaccines during Vaccinate Chicago Week, beginning December 2nd.
Finally, we are encouraged by and remain committed to our partnerships with other City agencies. The majority of our initiatives, and indeed our successes, involve a partnership with at least one, and often multiple City agencies. Whether improving tobacco enforcement, developing a Food Plan, or addressing bed bugs, we value the opportunities to work with our City partners. These synergistic relationships allow for more comprehensive, multi-faceted approaches, which are ultimately more successful than the work that a single department can do by itself.
Capturing New Public Health Funding
CDPH receives annual grant awards of approximately $100 million to support Healthy Chicago priorities. Much of this funding allows us to address specific health issues such as HIV prevention and care, women and children’s health, and the control of communicable diseases. Importantly, we also receive grants to strengthen CDPH’s infrastructure in areas such as epidemiology (to better understand and target responses to populations in need) and a department-wide performance management capacity.
Yet, recognizing local and State budget challenges, we continue to aggressively pursue federal funding to support our Healthy Chicago priorities. In recent months, we have secured over $7 million in new funding that will help support our work in 2013. These grants will support:
Finally, our partnership with CPS best exemplifies the importance and connections across our investments in children and partnerships, and our commitment to secure new funding. This year we have built on our existing relationships to develop Healthy CPS, an initiative of Healthy Chicago. Healthy CPS, which will be released in later this year, identifies an array of health and wellness strategies to ensure that students of all ages are physically and emotionally healthy, and therefore in a better position to learn. CDPH and CPS recently joined forces and successfully competed for $4.4 million in federal funding to launch this work with efforts to reduce tobacco use, increase physical activity, improve nutrition and promote mental and emotional well-being among the all CPS students. This effort will also unite our two agencies with community partners as well as the City’s Department of Transportation and the Park District.
To successfully meet our commitments to invest in children’s health, reinvest in partnerships, and capture new public health funding, we must do so in manner that ensures our resources are used responsibly and our services and programs are of high quality. We owe this to our partners, to our funders, to the taxpayers, and most importantly, to those Chicagoans who count on us to protect their health. We view this responsibility as our highest priority and towards that end we are working diligently to attain national public health accreditation. Our pursuit of accreditation affords CDPH the opportunity to constructively assess, and ultimately improve, our performance across a broad range of standards and measures in areas such as disease investigation, information dissemination, policy development, and administration. The scope of this effort ensures that we not only serve our constituents effectively, but also in the most efficient manner possible. We formally submitted our application materials earlier this month. This process will result in CDPH being one of the first local public health departments, and the largest, to receive this endorsement. More importantly, it will strengthen our ability to provide important services to our residents.
While the changes we have made in 2012 have at times been difficult, they were ultimately necessary to allow CDPH to refocus on our core public health mission – to promote health and prevent illness. We have been able to test new and innovative approaches to addressing public health challenges and have come to recognize the importance of systems and policy change as an essential tool for sustainable public health improvements. We are excited as we move forward and continue our work to create a Healthy Chicago.