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our Letter to
Allegheny County Board of Health  

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) plays a vital role in ensuring the health and well-being of our community. From food safety to housing, air quality, and chronic disease, ACHD's work covers many critical areas. However, persistent geographical and racial disparities in exposure to health threats and outcomes demand urgent action.

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To the Allegheny County Board of Health

The Allegheny County Health Department is vitally important for ensuring and improving the health and well-being of the residents of Allegheny County. Like the factors that contribute to health outcomes, ACHD’s work spans many issues – from food safety, to housing, to air quality, to chronic disease, and more. In a 2014 Pittsburgh City Paper interview with former ACHD Director Karen Hacker, Director Hacker identified race and geography as the two health disparities that concerned her the most. Nearly 10 years later, geographical and racial inequities in exposure to health threats and in health outcomes persist across the many areas of ACHD’s work. Achieving health equity is an urgent need.

At the same time, worsening effects of climate change present greater risks to everyone in Allegheny County, especially to our neighbors and children who are already overburdened and under-resourced. The new ACHD director has the opportunity to lead our county to a healthier, secure, and life-giving future by ensuring that people’s well-being is at the heart of priority-setting and decision-making across county government and across the county itself. For this reason, the signed organizations, groups, and individuals of the Equitable and Just Greater Pittsburgh network assert several key attributes that the hiring committee should emphasize in the search for our next health director.

The ACHD Director should: 

  • Possess a proven track record in public health and in implementing a social determinants of health approach. Political, economic, environmental, social, and cultural factors, including infrastructure and the built environment, impact health outcomes and need to be centered in our county’s public health strategy; 

  • Demonstrate previous success in – and an ongoing commitment to – urgently identifying, prioritizing, and addressing health disparities in all their forms. This includes disparities in terms of race, class, sex, gender, ethnicity, ability, age, and geography (among others). The health director should treat the disparities with the utmost urgency, especially those affecting Black women, frontline environmental justice communities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, English as a second language speakers, and others;

  • Possess experience successfully implementing policies and programs that address climate change to protect public health. Worsening climate change presents a risk to the health and well-being of all of our residents in the form of increased heat stress, increased prevalence of  insect-borne diseases, increased rainfall, and other impacts. The health director should strive to prevent climate change, to mitigate the impacts, and to strengthen the ability of county residents to deal with the impacts, especially those residents living in the most vulnerable communities; 

  • Show evidence of – and an ongoing commitment to:

    • transparency, openness, accountability and public participation in budgeting and decision-making, 

    • implementing data justice, the “collection, analysis, sharing, and use of data entirely in service of and with accountability to participants and their communities,”

    • ensuring language accessibility and cultural humility as fundamental practices of public health,

    • building long-term, positively-transformational relationships with communities and being in service to them–especially those communities that continue to be overburdened and under-resourced. An ideal director will commit to accessible and respectful public dialogue, including by ensuring technology and language accessibility. They will also honor and listen to the concerns and priorities of residents of communities that continue to be overburdened and under-resourced;

  • Demonstrate success in intra-government collaboration. A social determinants of health focus requires that ACHD work collaboratively with the rest of county government, including the Department of Human Services, Department of Economic Development, Pittsburgh Regional Transit, and other public offices to achieve equitable health outcomes

  • Demonstrate a commitment to prioritizing health, security, safety, and well-being over profit in addressing current and future challenges.


Finally, because the work of ACHD touches so many parts of our lives, the signed organizations, groups, and individuals of the Equitable and Just Greater Pittsburgh network call for a public selection process in which stakeholder organizations covering multiple issue areas meaningfully participate in the selection of final candidates for the position, and that final candidates participate in a public forum with a question-and-answer session. As the director will be charged with ensuring the public health of our county, we respectfully request that the public be given an opportunity to participate in this selection process. 


The Organizations, Groups, and Individuals of the Equitable and Just Greater Pittsburgh network signed below:

Heather Sage
Tiffany L Gary-Webb, PhD, MHS
The Rev. Erin K. Morey
Thea Young
Kayla Ortiz
Andrea Rosso, PhD, MPH
Chavaysha Chaney
Noble Maseru, PhD, MPH
Elaine Linn
Rayden Sorock
Maegan Bogetti
Christine Graziano
Mark Dixon
Chris West
Monica L Baskin, PhD
Jennifer Dickquist
Kevin Jarbo
Kenna Campbell
Lisa Graves Marcucci
Joelene M. Hester
Ella Hamburger
Alexis Boytim
Shrinath Suresh
Cindy Haines
Kevin Walsh
Joe Callahan
Phoebe Shackeroff Reese
Mary Ohmer, PhD, MSW, MPIA
Dina Blackwell
Kiyomi Knox
Abhishek Viswanathan

Dara D. Mendez, PhD, MPH

Ivette Mongalo-Winston, AICP LEED-AP

Maren Cooke, PhD

David Jens Thomas Pedersen

Miriam (Mim) Seidel, MS, RDN

Melissa McCombs 

Prince Matthews, Sr., MPA

Age-Friendly Greater Pittsburgh
Alliance for Police Accountability

Awaken Pittsburgh
Bike Pittsburgh
Black Environmental Collective
Black Equity Coalition
Breathe Project
Cancer Environment Network of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Casa San Jose
Community Justice Project
Focus on Renewal
Group Against Smog & Pollution
Hill District Consensus Group
Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation
Just Harvest

Larimer Consensus Group
New Sun Rising
Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh Black Worker Center
Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Take Action Advocacy Group
The Global Switchboard
Trying Together
UrbanKind Institute
Three Rivers Waterkeeper
West End P.O.W.E.R.
Women for a Healthy Environment

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