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Public Health Agents of Change

Youlian Liao, MD

Youlian Liao mission: possible

Name: Youlian Liao, MD

Title: Deputy Associate Director for Science (acting), Division of Population Health

Race: Human

Occupation: Epidemiologist

Years at CDC:  16

Public Health Agent of Change Service Record:

How have you worked to advance health equity?

Giving minority students more opportunities to obtain good education and training is a good step to increase the number of persons who would commit to health equity. I have been serving as a preceptor for interns from minority-serving institutions for 15 years. My favorite moment is when my previous students write me, a rigorous teacher, that they have enrolled in a medical school, a doctoral program in public health, or have taken a job in the state or local health department. I believe that increasing workforce diversity in health care and public health is important in advancing health equity.

What are you currently doing or have done in your career to reduce health disparities?

I worked daily on the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) 2010 and the REACH US project from 2002 through 2012. I directed the development and implementation of the annual REACH Risk Factor Surveys, which served as an evaluation of the REACH project. REACH, a large-scale community-participatory intervention in a “real-world” setting, made a powerful case. It proved that we could reduce health disparities through community collaborations, system and environmental interventions, and cultural tailoring approaches to improve the health status of groups most affected.

How can we work to make achieving health equity a Mission: Possible?

In CDC, different centers and divisions are focusing on different health issues. However, many health conditions are all closely linked with social, economic, and environmental factors. We should break down the silos between programs and interventions and work concertedly addressing “upstream” causes of health disparities along with particular types of health conditions. The ultimate goal of all programs and projects is achieving health equity, which means “healthy lives for everyone.”

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