Health Equity Champion
Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH
CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) recognizes CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH as the fall 2021 Health Equity Champion.
Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is the 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ninth Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Originally from Maryland, Dr. Walensky served as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital from 2017-2020 and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2012-2020. She served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and conducted research on vaccine delivery and strategies to reach underserved communities.
In April, ten weeks after becoming CDC director, Dr. Walensky declared racism a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans and, as a result, affects the health of our entire nation. Dr. Walensky says, “It was important to me to bring my clinical and scientific commitment, passion, and advocacy for health equity to my role as director of the agency charged with protecting the health of all Americans.” This declaration announced that CDC is rededicating our efforts to the work of addressing the challenges driven by structural factors that overwhelmingly impact so many of the communities we live in.
As part of that commitment, the agency developed the CORE Health Equity Science and Intervention strategy, resolving to create comprehensive health equity science, optimize interventions, reinforce existing partnerships and create new ones, and enhance our workforce engagement. CDC has embarked on a strategic process agency-wide to make sure health equity and the elimination of health inequities are central to the work we do—and that every center, division, and program is advancing these efforts. It is this work that will holistically transform the way we approach public health—within the agency, across the nation, and around the world.
As an agency, CDC is transforming its public health research, surveillance, and implementation science efforts to shift from simply listing the markers of health inequities to identifying and addressing the drivers of these disparities. To ensure an effective health equity strategy for our nation, we are bringing together partners from various sectors to gain collective expertise and perspectives. Only through a combination of strong science, interventions, evaluation, partnership, policy, communication, and workforce enhancement can we achieve our vision of ensuring all people have an opportunity to live as healthy as possible.