Environmental health is top priority for new Dearborn Public Health Department

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Nargis Rahman

Environmental health is the highest priority for the new Dearborn Department of Public Health.

“The biggest goal of this administration is to think about how we improve conditions for the people of Dearborn, primarily on the south and east sides of the city, where they are closer to factories and industrial corporations,” Ali said. Abazeed, director of public health for the city of Dearborn.

Another goal is mental and behavioral health, he says. “We can tailor our programs to the unique needs of our demographics. Dearborn is quite a diverse city. We all talk about having the greatest Arab-American concentration in North America and that’s true, but our community is so much bigger than that. And the needs across sociopolitical status, socioeconomic status, sociohistorical status, are quite diverse.

Ali Abazeed is the director of public health for the city of Dearborn.

Serving a diverse population means a multifaceted approach that includes the entire municipal administration, he says.

“Our parks and recreation, our public works, our water and sewer services, our economic development teams, our transportation teams – all of these teams in our local government are thinking with a health lens,” says Abazeed . “And the question they are asking is not just what is the problem to be solved, but how will it affect the health of Dearborn residents and the communities in which they live, learn, work and play?

Abazeed, a Dearborn native, has spent the past five years in Washington, DC, working at the National Institutes of Health, primarily with the National Cancer Institute. But when Mayor Abdullah Hammoud approached Abazeed to launch the new health service in his hometown, he said the opportunity was compelling. He says Dearborn is only the second city in the state to have a formal health department.


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“What we’re doing here is not just investing in a public health service, but we’re also testing a new model of municipal public health governance,” says Abazeed.

The pandemic has brought new public health challenges at a time when public health infrastructure over the past four decades has been drained, he says.

“This administration emphasizes that the best way forward is to invest in public health and invest in people’s communities and conditions,” Abazeed said. “Our decisions will no longer be based solely on economic analyses, cost-benefit analyses. They also go through health impact assessments. We’re no longer going to think of some sort of vacant plot of land and say, “Well, how did the developers get here and turn this into a profit?” We’re also thinking about how to turn these spaces into green spaces and gateways for the people of Dearborn. »

The city’s health department was created earlier this year to modernize the approach to public health, which has evolved over the years, from “public health 1.0” established in the early 20th century, focused on systems sewers, hygiene and vaccinations, to “public health 2.0 and 3.0. »

“1.0 is the idea of ​​how we can prevent infectious diseases from happening, which were the number one killer in the 20th century,” says Abazeed. “And then when we got into the 1980s, realizing that we’re moving beyond infectious diseases, we’re moving beyond that sense of mortality and behavioral issues become more and more of a concern for us.”

“Public Health 2.0 and 3.0,” explains Abazeed, is the idea that health problems result not only from individual choices, but also from environmental factors such as climate change, transportation, and infrastructure.

“If we accept that our health is the by-product of many of these big societal issues, that forces us to take a multi-pronged approach to addressing health in all policies, and that’s what 2.0 , 3.0 emphasizes is the idea of ​​institutionalizing health considerations into everything we do as a city government,” says Abazeed.

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  • Nargis Hakim Rahman is the civic reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman is a graduate of Wayne State University, where she was part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.

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