Chicago is abuzz with talk about what our new mayor should do to boost the economy, deal with budget deficits, and improve services.
Any reporter with her ear to the ground is bound to come across the ideas that are being bounced around.
That’s how I learned that several experts were talking about a possible merger of Chicago’s and Cook County’s health departments: By chatting with sources I’ve known during years of reporting on health care issues here.
Like many others, these sources recognize that new political leadership for Chicago and Cook County represents an opportunity to do things that might have been considered unthinkable under previous administrations, such as trimming redundant bureaucracies.
Change for its own sake isn’t necessarily desirable, but change informed by clear policy objectives can turn government agencies in productive new directions.
If Rahm Emanuel and Toni Preckwinkle are willing to consider combining certain public health functions – and that’s still a big “if” – they would do well to clearly define their primary objectives, says Robert M. Petronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
Is the main goal to save costs? Or is it to improve the health of Chicago and Cook County? Depending on goals that are set, a public health merger could go in very different directions.
What is clear is that the public health needs of this region are enormous. Dealing with obesity, diabetes, other chronic diseases, HIV/AIDs, sexually transmitted diseases, maternal and infant health, food safety, the emotional and physical consequences of violence, and persistent health care disparities deserves a well thought out, well coordinated response whatever new political leaders decide.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times