New state health director visits Rockford, shares public health goals

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck

Online Staff Report

Newly appointed Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck shared his vision for the future of public health May 25 at the Winnebago County Health Department in Rockford.

Dr. Hansbrouck’s vision for the future includes eliminating health disparities and chronic disease, and providing greater access to health care in Illinois.

Dr. Hasbrouck also championed Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) $1-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax as an effective way to close the $2.7 billion Medicaid deficit and improve health benefits statewide by curbing the number of smokers.

Local health departments are the front lines of public health and are our strongest allies in the effort to address and eliminate health disparities, provide access to quality health care and improve the overall health of Illinois residents,” said Dr. Hasbrouck.

One of the director’s priorities in preventing chronic disease is combating tobacco use and how the proposed cigarette tax can greatly help in this effort.

In every state that has significantly raised cigarette taxes, pack sales sharply decreased. Every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by 3 to 5 percent, reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5 percent and decreases the number of children who smoke by at least 6 percent, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In addition to improving the overall health and quality of life for those who quit or cut back, raising the cigarette tax would also slash health care costs over time. The projected savings over five years tops $17 million for medical treatments for cardiovascular disease, $8.5 million for lung cancer, and more than $9 million in overall savings to the Medicaid program — encouraging numbers for a state that spends $1.5 billion of its $14 billion Medicaid budget treating smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer and emphysema.

As the former public health director (commissioner) of the Ulster County Department of Public Health in New York, Dr. Hasbrouck understands public health happens locally — everything from providing school immunizations to investigating foodborne illnesses.

To continue IDPH’s partnership with local health departments and community-based and faith-based organizations, the Department was recently awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with an almost $4.8 million Community Transformation Grant, which will be sub-granted through IDPH’s We Choose Health initiative working to fight against obesity, tobacco use and other chronic diseases.

Dr. Hasbrouck will continue to visit local health departments in Illinois to learn about health issues each face and to develop strategies about how the state can help support local efforts.

Posted May 25, 2012

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