Though only in office a few months, Detroit’s new Chief Public Health Officer, Denise Fair has already began working with local officials and residents to improve the city’s health. The metro Detroit native says she is excited about her position and views it as a chance to improve the health of all Detroiters.
Fair plans to build a stronger relationship between the community and the local health systems. She will oversee all health department initiatives – this includes programs like SisterFriends Detroit which focuses on reducing infant mortality and linking expectant mothers (little sisters) with community volunteers (big sisters) to provide social support during pregnancy and even after the child is born. Then there is the iDecide Detroit, a network of teen friendly reproductive health care providers that offer services like condoms, birth control, STI testing and treatment aimed at teen reproductive health care.
“For me this new job, is more than just job, it’s really a calling,”She said, “I feel really connected to the city and I want to make sure that I am really having an opportunity to make a true impact. But I can’t do it alone. It takes an entire community to work together to make a difference.”
A native of Ypsilanti, Fair currently resides in Detroit. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her master’s degree in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently obtaining a Master of Business Administration in Finance at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.
She has over 12 years of public health leadership experience and had worked with the Henry Ford Health System as a Group Practice Director.
She was also a Senior Consultant and Program Administrator for Trinity Health System and is board certified in healthcare management from the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Fair previously held a position on the Executive Committee for the Livonia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and has represented the Board of Directors for the Michigan Chapter of the America College of Healthcare Executives.
As chief public health officer, Fair also oversees Detroit Animal Care and Control where she plans to expand hours and have more officers and trucks patrolling the streets to ensure the public’s safety and educate citizens on dealing with stray dogs.
This year Detroit Animal Care and Control recently hired its largest cohort of officers in recent years and will continue to implement improvements that protect the health and safety of Detroiters, said Fair.” Since the beginning of the year, Detroit Animal Care and Control has picked up over 1,700 stray dogs.”
Since her appointment, Fair has begun working with other officials to start the process of crafting the 2020 vision for the health department. Using data from the 2018 Detroit Community Health Assessment Fair plans goal is to create a healthy environment for all residents. Fair said the assessment identified what was important to citizen’s overall health which included issues like mental health and access to healthy grocery stores. The goal now is to combine the data and put it into a three- to five-year community health improvement plan.
“The health department is full of 230-plus individuals who are so passionate about the work that they do,” said Fair. “They are excited, they’re ready and they’re really looking forward to work with me as I work with them.”
On Oct. 3, Fair participated a press conference with the Michigan Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Joseph P. Galvan and other city officials announcing the City of Detroit was awarded a $9.7 million dollar grant—the largest grant amount awarded to the top five grantee protecting families and children living in HUD-assisted housing from home health hazards, including lead.
The $9.7 M will help Detroit to create healthier homes for children as the goal is for every home with small children to be lead safe. With this funding the Detroit Health Department will expand its primary prevention efforts in the community with door knocking, education, and in-home lead testing. The Department will also develop coordinated efforts with the Housing Revitalization Department for the intake and application processes with residents. In addition to making referrals for children who are at the highest risk for lead exposure, the Health Department will ensure they receive priority services.
The city currently offers three programs in lead prevention and safety. The Lead Outreach Pilot Program provides cleaning kits and lead abatement information. There is also the Lead Safe Detroit Coalition that provides education, water testing and removal of hazardous waste lead sources from homes, and the Lead Prevention Program which addresses poisoning through nurse visits to prevent children under age six from being diagnosed with high blood levels of lead. Since 2009, the number of children with elevated blood levels has decreased by half.
“I see Detroit as this huge opportunity,” said Fair. “My main vision is to create a healthy environment so that every Detroit resident has an opportunity to thrive.”
For more information, call 313-876-4000 or visit www.detroitmi.gov/health