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Behind the Public Face of Healthcare – A Look Inside the Illinois Department of Public Health

By Celeste Mallama

In the face of growing efforts to reduce states’ financial commitments and streamline responsibilities, various government agencies are increasingly under pressure to justify their existence. In this article, I assess the success of a state agency, the Illinois Department of Public Health, in maintaining and promoting public health across the state—and in making that work known.

Public Health in the Public Eye

Doctors and nurses tend to be the face of public health in America, and why not? When we get sick or need a vaccination, we head to our nearest health clinic and are seen by a healthcare professional who treats us and sends us on our way.

We are often less aware of the vast network and infrastructure of public health agencies that exist outside of this clinical setting. This lack of visibility makes it difficult for these agencies to procure funding for their work. The function of public health work is to keep the population healthy before problems arise, but since the press tends not to cover the absence of an outbreak, public health agencies for the most part stay out of the limelight.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) serves as a centralized agency for public health-based screening and testing in Illinois. It houses laboratories in Springfield, Carbondale, and Chicago that provide essential health-related services that are not often visible to the general population.

A few of these services are reviewed in the full article. Download the NPHR Fall 2013to read.

About the Author

Celeste Mallama

Celeste Mallama is a third-year PhD/MPH candidate in the Driskill Graduate Program at Northwestern University. She works in the laboratory of Dr. Nicholas Cianciotto, examining the interaction between Legionella pneumophila and the host innate immune system. She spent the summer of 2013 at the Illinois Department of Public Health, completing her field experience for her MPH.