Friday, June 10, 2005

"A punch in the gut" for public health in California

Just 14 months after leaving CDC to become California's top health official, Dr. Richard Jackson has resigned, citing a desire to be closer to his family and "long-standing academic interests." (LA Times, no link) Before going to CDC Dick Jackson was a top environmental epidemiologist in California and then headed the Center for Environmental Health at CDC, the nation's top environmental epidemiology unit. Highly regarded for his scientific knowledge, integrity and public health vision, his appointment by Schwarzenegger was considered a good sign for public health in California. The signs are now bad (full disclosure; the Reveres know Dick Jackson).
"It is an untenable situation," said Dr. Scott Morrow, San Mateo County's health officer and head of the Health Officers' Assn. of California. "It is an unsupportive environment, and he can't do what he needs to do as public health officer…. That California can't retain someone that visionary … is an indictment of the Department of Health Services."

A bill to strengthen the health officer position stalled in the Legislature last year and is pending this year.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe dismissed statements that Jackson's departure reflected poorly on the Schwarzenegger administration's commitment to public health. She said Jackson was "clear in terms of the reasons for his resignation — to work and live in the Bay Area."
Oh sure. Well the meaning of his resignation is clear all right.
Dr. Anthony Iton, Alameda County's public health officer, called Jackson's departure a "punch in the gut for local and state public health in California."
So now California's health department can join Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc., etc. in demonstrating how marginalized and unimportant public health has become. Thanks Ahnold. Thanks Mitt. Thanks Ed. Thanks Bob.

And of course how could we forget the Big Guy: Thanks, George.