Houston, Secretary, Craig Cohen discussed on Houston Matters

Houston Matters


Harris county public health executive director. Dr shawn ounce tuesday. He's leaving the department. He's led since twenty thirteen to become washington state's new secretary of health. He joins us now. Dr shock congrats on the new gig. Welcome back to the show. Crag it's as you can imagine but <hes>. Thanks for having me and thanks for the congratulations. Why have you decided to take on this new challenge in the state of washington. Well it's <hes>. You know let me. Let me just say <hes>. Again with mentioned about the sweet piece is that there's just so much that we have accomplished here and and so many incredible incredible staff members <hes>. Department leadership and and just across the community cross county government but across the community. That have just done. Just such an amazing job <hes>. It is really hard to leave. But i will tell you that what you know it. Opportunities are when they come before you and i was asked by governor ins lease <hes>. Administration to join as the secretary of health. And it's an incredible privilege and honor to be asked for that <hes>. And certainly i'm hopeful to be able to take that experience from here and what i've learned and been able to do here in harris county to state level and some excited about that. Would you characterize the challenges that washington state is facing as roughly the same as what we're facing here when it comes to the pandemic. Oh craig here's the thing so it it. We're all facing the same way. So i in fact i got this question yesterday from a reporter in in seattle and it was a very <hes>. Very much a question. That i thought was interesting and it was about well. You know the state is big and it's diverse and you know it's got red and blue areas and it's got urban areas and it's got suburban areas and scott rural areas and not. Everybody has agreed on how we should fight the pandemic <hes>. So what what are your thoughts about coming into that. And i thought that kind of sounds like harris county <hes>. So you know it's it's seven point six million people it's it's larger than obviously harris county and in population and certainly size. But i will tell you that it. It is also true that throughout this pandemic what we are facing here in our community is similar to what we're facing across texas across the country and across the globe now everything is manifesting differently. So fortunately we although we've been seeing increases and yes. These are concerning trends here within our region. We're not seeing that same level that you've seen in el paso or other parts of texas other parts of the country now again we can't let our our eyes off the the the ball here because very quickly as you talked over the month things can change and when they change. They changed quickly. And so we've got to do everything we can to prevent it from happening in the first place. And that's why we've got a strategic opportunity right before the holidays to get things <hes>. Right and for community to heed the call to to really change the behaviors that were having over the holidays. And that's going to really drive. You know what's going to happen for us in the next chapter for you know for our community. What's next for harris county health leadership. Well you know. Obviously county government is going to make a decision and <hes>. You know. I'm leaving an incredibly strong <hes>. Leadership team behind <hes>. In fact you can see it on twitter. I tweeted it out <hes>. recently and it's strong. It's experienced its diverse <hes>. Dedicated passionate and that's what community wants from its public health leadership and so. I'm just incredibly proud of that team. Now it's never about the me. It's always about the we when when we do activities or we take on activities and so craig what i would say is that while i may be not here and cheering this community on from a distance that work continues and that team continues and they are here and they're ready but ultimately it's going to be county government and commissioner's court. Who's going to decide what they're going to do after i leave my last day. Here's december eighteenth <hes>. What they're going to do after that in the interim period and certainly beyond that <hes>. But i will tell you that we've got a great team and i'm hopeful that the community remembers the incredible work that we've done you know local health department of the year <hes>. National accreditation <hes>. Microsoft research <hes>. Picking us as the only community in the country. The only health department the country for its project premonition <hes>. We've you know we were ranked number two recently and peer rankings by seven hundred and forty local health departments across the country for who. They look to initiatives. There's a lot of incredible work that we've done and craig one that i know you're <hes>. I've talked about this before. Related to animals <hes>. When i started at the at the department as the director are leave alive rate animals. That left our shelter. Alive was was about fifteen percent. This is twenty twelve twenty thirteen. It is now ninety eight percent. We have actually changed the narrative. These are things that we have to be proud of as a community and as a as the government. I just really want to just say that. We can't do it alone. In this pandemic has shown this you know obviously harvey and katrina rita i e carvey all these hurricanes and tropical storms but also you know h one n one ebola zico now covid nineteen. We have a lot of work that continues. There's never a good time to leave. But i'm very proud of our department and our team and i'm excited about the fact that they're going to continue that that work into the future. What parting advice. Can you offer to huston. Ian the department and its initiatives not just about cove in the current surge in cases about the region's health and general. Well a two things. One is that look cova. Nineteen is a. It's a crisis it's pandemic it is. Let's not let's not let our focus off of that so <hes>. What i've been calling twenty twentieth the first half of football game. It's the first half the holidays coming up here. We're going to be at halftime. Usually people take a charge <hes>. Recharge during halftime they changed strategy. They think about what's up ahead. We know twenty twenty one's gonna be vaccines vaccines vaccines and certainly <hes>. We've got to be readying ourselves for the second half so halftime so critical. So if you don't have to have thanksgiving holidays with a lot of people don't and fact <hes>. Make him very small holidays. <hes> a few people your social bubble your immediate people in your family <hes>. Don't travel do those kinds of things if you're gonna do those things. Please look at our website for safety precautions. That's the one thing koba. Nineteen craig the second thing. Let's remember the value proposition of of true health. Not just health care delivery about prevention about the investment in public health systems. The reason that we have got into some of this mess across the country is we have not appreciated the value of public health and prevention. And so we wait for people to get sick and then we try to do things. We wait for people to get injured and we try to do things. Let's invest upfront. And if we do that in county and city and and even state and federal governments we invest truly unhealth then we can have a healthier community. Dr rumor shaw's the soon to be departing executive director of harris county public health. Doctor shaw thanks very much. Thank you craig. It's been an honor to be with the all. These

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