Maine DHHS to Establish Office of Population Health Equity

April 2, 2021

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that it will establish the Office of Population Health Equity (OPHE) within the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) in order to identify and address health disparities in communities throughout Maine.

The OPHE will focus on data-driven interventions to advance health equity for a number of populations, including but not limited to racial and ethnic populations, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, and other groups for which disparate health outcomes are present in Maine. Maine DHHS has launched a search for a director of OPHE, who will work in partnership with stakeholders to ensure the Department’s efforts are informed by and reflect the needs of the communities we seek to serve. The Director will also collaborate with leaders across Maine CDC and DHHS, including the Department’s Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, to coordinate a variety of health equity projects and initiatives.

“The Office of Population Health Equity is critical to our goal of advancing the health of all Maine people and to work toward a more inclusive and participatory relationship with communities throughout Maine,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “We are committed to making progress on reducing inequities in Maine’s health care and public health systems by taking action to address underlying problems that contribute to these disparities.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address health disparities in Maine and across the country, OPHE’s work will extend well beyond the boundaries of the pandemic, from chronic disease prevention and treatment to environmental health and public health systems. The Department’s ongoing work to address health disparities includes issuing a Request for Information (RFI) in July of 2020 to gather information on organizational changes, engagement, and formal partnerships (e.g., through grants, contracts, and other arrangements) to improve equitable outcomes from our health and human services programs. As part of that RFI, we asked whether we should re-establish the former Office of Minority Health, now called the Office of Health Equity, at Maine CDC, which had been dissolved under the previous Administration. The vast majority of respondents favored re-establishing the office, but also provided important feedback about its structure, including the need for a clear leadership position with adequate support and funding. The Director will have a key leadership role at the Maine CDC, reporting directly to Dr. Nirav D. Shah, and once hired will have the opportunity to add additional staff.

“Advancing the health of Maine people who have long faced unacceptable inequities, including the disparities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a top priority for Maine CDC,” said Dr. Shah. “The Office of Population Health Equity will be key to this critical work to removing barriers that limit the full potential of all Maine people to lead healthy, safe, and opportunity-rich lives.”

The job posting for the Director of the Office of Population Health Equity can be found here.