Officials in Orange County, California, are actively recruiting people for a new position as director of a Population Health and Equity Office, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA).
“This person will be leading the agency-wide equity effort in addressing health equity, particularly collaborating with community partners in targeting the equity measures that were recently implemented by the state,” said Chau, who is also the county health officer, at an Oct. 29 news conference.
California now includes a health equity metric as part of its requirements to move to a less restrictive tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system.
The health equity mandate for each color-coded tier is based on the test positivity rate of the most disproportionately impacted communities. Orange County is currently in the red tier, or “substantial” risk level, with a health equity metric of 5.7 percent as of Nov. 4. The next less restrictive “moderate” orange tier requires less than 5.3 percent.
Orange County officials have said it will be challenging to move to the orange tier.
“As county supervisors, we are very much concerned about the health equity plan, what we have to do,” said Michelle Steel, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
“But at the same time, we’ve been working on it. That’s why [in] the City of Santa Ana and City of Anaheim, we used to have infected rates almost like 19 percent. Now it went down to under 5 percent.”
The director of the new Population Health and Equity Office “will be deeply involved in community engagement to help build and drive equity into our core business functions,” Jessica Good, public information manager at the OCHCA, told The Epoch Times in an email.
Good said a charter will be created for the new office in cooperation with community partners. The agency hopes to build and strengthen public-private partnerships in this area.
Chau also said there was a lot of excitement on the private side with the agency’s partners, but revealed no details about the partners.
“We would welcome all types of collaboration,” said Chau, adding that he also hopes to work on health equity issues with local city governments, particularly Anaheim and Santa Ana.
He told The Epoch Times in an email about how the new office will operate.
“The Office of Population Health and Equity will report directly to the Health Care Agency Director working with other Department Heads in the Executive Team. This office will ensure all departments focus on health equity in what we do as an agency,” he said.
However, no details were revealed about how much power the office will have to ensure the focus on health equity across the entire agency.
Chau said the director of Population Health and Equity would be working with staff at all levels in the agency and with various departments to “ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion considerations are incorporated in the decision-making processes.”
He said these issues of health equity, along with disparities in chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, would continue to be addressed “way beyond the pandemic.”
“The pandemic truly pushed the issue of health equity to the forefront, and these issues existed way before the pandemic and have been around not only in Orange County community but all over in our state and our country in the area of disparities for health care,” he said.
“If we stop at just COVID, then we miss the point.”