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By Max Erikson

New director wants health equity


January 24, 2018

Max Erikson

NEW TO THE JOB: Carla Dionne is settling in the Klickitat County Public Health office

Klickitat County's new public health director, Carla Dionne, is still adjusting to her new job and is working hard to get up to speed on new and current community initiatives. Dionne brings years of experience to the position and has a few specific areas that she wants to focus on to provide the best health care to the county.

Dionne says there are many things that she would like to see happen in her tenure and hopes to engage the community and her staff to take an active role in accomplishing those goals.

"I really want to have a deeper understanding of the health equity in this community," Dionne says. "I want to see everybody have equal access to health care no matter what their economic situation is, to have no barriers to the kind of healthcare people need and make sure that no one is excluded."

Health equity ensures that all people have full and equal access to health care to enable them to lead healthy lives. Dionne is working to get a better understanding of the health care needs of the community and will focus on addressing that.

One strategy that Dionne believes works to improve health equity standards for the community is to partner with local health care practitioners in the county to help provide certain services that the county normally doesn't cover like dental and eye care.

"Those partnerships are really critical to provide those safety nets and those services that the county doesn't offer" Dionne says.

Another area of focus for Dionne will be to monitor the immunization records of children and determine if more steps need to be taken to get children the vaccines that they need. Dionne says she will look at family planning programs and children's health programs and work to bring a collaborative effort and community engagement to strengthen these programs.

"Immunizations are a big area of concern for me and I really want to work with the school districts to stay on top of that," Dionne says. "I want to have good working relationships with the superintendents in case of a disease outbreak and to have a plan in place to keep those outbreaks under control."

Dionne says that she is also focused on emergency preparedness and believes that is an important part of public health. She says that emergency preparedness and immunizations go hand in hand, and the health department needs to be ready for anything.

"That is an important one for me because you never know when something can happen, and it can be really scary if you are not prepared," Dionne says. "I've seen outbreaks overwhelm a health department, but if you can establish a foundation for how to respond ahead of time you can really get handle on it sooner than later."

Dionne strongly believes that everyone working for the health department, from the front office to the medical staff to the billing department, should be 100 percent engaged with the community and that all staff should play a role in that effort.

"When a public health department works that way, when all staff is involved with community, it provides that best service we can give," Dionne says. "I want everyone who works here to feel that they own a piece of this health department in terms of the engagement with the community."

Dionne wants the entire department working on the same page and to keep the lines of communication open from one internal department to the other. She says she wants her staff to feel like they are part of one collective team.

"From what I've seen so far, the staff already works really well together," Dionne says. "They are eager to learn and keep growing in the field, and that speaks volumes to their dedication to public health."

Dionne is originally from the Willamette Valley and a graduate of Portland State University. Her education also includes a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins and Masters of Business Administration from the University of Colorado. She is currently completing her PhD in Public Health Leadership from the University of Illinois distance learning program.

Dionne is also a founder and Executive Director of the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation that was established in 1999 and was one of the first healthcare non-profits to go online.

She is returning to the northwest after working for many years as a Public Health director in Colorado and Oklahoma and recalls fond memories of fishing with her father in the area when she was a child. She has a peace about being here and is thankful for how accommodating the county has been during the hiring and transition process.

"My greatest hope is that the county can really use my experience and that it will be put to good use to accomplish our goals" Dionne says.


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