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UCSF Chancellor Appointed to New California Task Force to Improve Health

By Elizabeth Fernandez

UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, has been appointed to a new state task force established by Governor Jerry Brown to  develop a 10-year blueprint for improving the health of Californians.

Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH

Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH

Desmond-Hellmann and the other members on the Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force will focus on reducing the burden of preventable and chronic health conditions, increasing childhood vaccination rates, controlling health care costs and lowering hospital readmissions.

The 24-member task force harnesses the expertise of scientists, technology and labor leaders, educators, and public policy leaders.

“Diseases such as diabetes, asthma, childhood obesity and hypertension take such a social and economic toll in our state,’’ said Desmond-Hellmann. “I look forward to working with this group of talented and innovative experts  to come up with a plan that will provide fiscally prudent recommendations, and help people make informed decisions about their own health care.’’  

Task force members will convene for their first meeting June 11 in Los Angeles, and are expected to complete their plan six months later. 

In issuing the executive order in May that created the task force, Gov. Brown said that preventable and chronic health conditions cause a disproportion burden, resulting in 80 percent of the state’s total health care dollars being spent “on just 20 percent of the population.’’

Establishing the task force represents the first step toward a cohesive statewide strategy to collect, prioritize and share information about the incidence and treatment of preventable and chronic health conditions.

The task force is charged with gathering, evaluating and prioritizing “the best ideas and practices,’’ and developing a plan to identify obstacles, improve quality, control costs and promote personal responsibility for individual health. The plan will include a “sensible framework’’ to measure improvements in key areas including:

  • Reducing diabetes, asthma, childhood obesity, hypertension, and sepsis-related mortality;
  • Reducing hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge;
  • Increasing the number of children receiving recommended vaccines by age three.

The task force is co-chaired by Diana Dooley, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary, and Don Berwick, MD, MPP, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former president and chief executive of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Berwick was appointed by President Obama as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and served in that role until last December.

Members of the task force include Mitch Katz, MD, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and former head of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and Joy Melnikow, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research at UC Davis.

A team of 18 advisors that includes industry and labor leaders, public policy experts, educators and public health experts will serve alongside the task force.

Photo by Elisabeth Fall/fallfoto.com