Lab Matters Spring 2017 - Page 14

partner profile

John Auerbach by Nancy Maddox , MPH , writer

John Auerbach , MBA , became president and CEO of Trust for America ’ s Health ( TFAH ) on January 1 , 2017 . His career in public health spans more than three decades , beginning in one of the earliest community health centers and progressing to positions in city , state and national government . Auerbach served as executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission for nine years , Massachusetts ’ s health commissioner for six years and , for the past three years , as CDC associate director , in charge of managing the policy office and , on a temporary basis , the Office for State , Tribal , Local and Territorial Support . His other work includes stints overseeing Massachusetts ’ HIV / AIDS Bureau during the 1980s and 1990s and , more recently , directing the Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice at Northeastern University . Auerbach was a founding member and the second president of the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors , a member of the board of directors of the National Association of County and City Health Officials , and the 2010-2011 president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials .


You have been a long-time advocate for underserved populations . What attracted you to this work ?
Originally , what attracted me was simply a desire to do work that was beneficial to the community in which I lived at the time , and that was a low-income , racially diverse community like the one I grew up in . I wanted to serve the neighborhood . Even before I entered the health field , I worked in a shoe factory doing labor organizing , and I was involved in the civil rights movement before that . So I was really searching for a career that aligned with my social justice values and enabled me to earn a living .


And what have been some of your most rewarding accomplishments ?
I ’ ve loved working in public health at the local , state and federal levels . In each of those settings , some of my fondest memories are of working with people at the grassroots level , where there ’ s an opportunity to learn what people see as their own priority health issues and to support their efforts to address those . I ’ m proud of the work we did to ban smoking in Boston . We might have been the first city in our state to ban smoking in restaurants , and later we were one of the first to ban smoking in workplaces .
At the city and state levels , I was happy to work on policies related to health equity . I was able to create offices of health equity that ensured that all of our programs were paying attention to this important issue . At CDC I was involved in work to expand access to health insurance and to link healthcare to disease prevention and public health .


What do you hope to achieve at TFAH that might have been more difficult to achieve in your governmental positions ?
TFAH , as an independent , nonpartisan group , is able to speak openly and frankly about the importance of public health without some of the limitations that come with a governmental chain of command . This is one of the first jobs I ’ ve had in many years in which I ’ m not ultimately reporting to an elected official , like the city mayor or US president .
TFAH prioritizes support for sound federal health policies . This is especially important at the current time , when there are such dramatic changes at the federal level . We ’ re able to speak with an independent voice about policy proposals , whether they have to do with the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act or CDC funding . Right now , we ’ re concerned about funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund — part
LAB MATTERS Spring 2017
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