Newly Appointed ODH Director Issues Statement on Role, Governor’s State of the State Address

For the first time since her appointment, we’re hearing from new Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, MD. Acton released a public statement following Gov. Mike DeWine’s State of the State Address on March 5. In it she discusses her commitment to public health and the governor’s charge to her and her department. Read the full release below:
Dear Local Health Department Colleagues,
First, I want to begin by saying that given my passion for, and deep commitment to, public health in Ohio, I am deeply honored to be appointed Director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) by Gov. Mike DeWine.
Gov. DeWine also is strongly committed to public health in Ohio – and he demonstrated that commitment during his first State of the State Address today. I truly believe that this is a new day for public health and human services in Ohio with Gov. DeWine putting us at the top of his agenda.
Here are some excerpts from his remarks:
  • “…Tragically today, too many Ohioans are not getting the chance to succeed and to live up to their full God-given potential.”
  • “It is wrong—it is unconscionable—that in 2019, there are still children whose opportunities and whose dreams are stifled because they live in homes where they are exposed to lead paint. Every year, thousands of Ohio children under the age of six test positive for unsafe lead levels. And undoubtedly, there are countless more who have never been tested at all and would test positive.”
  • “In 2017, nearly 1,000 babies in Ohio died in their first 12 months of life. That’s equal to all the children under the age of four living in either Vinton or Morgan or Monroe or Harrison Counties. Further, African American babies are dying at almost three times the rate of white babies, leaving Ohio ranked 49th worst in the nation for deaths of African American infants. This must stop!”
  • “…too many Ohioans are still dying daily from unintentional drug overdoses.”
  • “Tragically, through no fault of their own, there are children in every part of Ohio who are experiencing significant trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or having a parent who uses drugs. These kinds of adverse childhood experiences are linked to an increased likelihood of depression, drug abuse, and even decreased life expectancy.” 
Gov. DeWine has instructed me and my human services agency colleagues “to focus every single day on these public health challenges” as he noted during his address. He also emphasized that our “focus will be on people—not on bureaucracy. They will work with you. And, they will serve as partners with their counterparts at the local community level.” From my conversations with Gov. DeWine, I personally can attest how strongly he feels about the importance of the work you are doing at the local level to address public health issues.
Gov. DeWine also said in his address that he will propose in the state budget for the next biennium the creation of a new public health fund that will leverage resources through an innovative new public-private partnership to increase public health awareness and prevention strategies. He said that “we will be infusing resources directly into communities to make systemic changes to help local efforts to prevent and treat mental health and substance use disorders and to support recovery and wellness for individuals.”
You can read a news release about Gov. DeWine’s 2019 State of the State Address and a link to his full remarks here.
I look forward to ODH continuing to work collaboratively with you on these and many other public health issues that we are addressing at the state and local levels in Ohio. I also look forward to meeting you as I travel around the state and during the 2019 Public Health Combined Conference.
Be Well,
Amy Acton, M.D., MPH
Director of Health