New Orleans Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo’s efforts to develop neighborhood-based, patient-centered medical homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina made her one of Governing magazine’s 2013 Public Officials of the Year and earned her a profile in the periodical’s December issue.
DeSalvo helped the city rebuild “better, stronger — and healthier” and was instrumental in developing the network of more than 100 medical homes that provide care for the uninsured, underinsured and low-income residents, according to Governing.
In medical homes, a primary care doctor helps coordinate the patient’s care, arranging treatment with specialists as needed. Information technology is also used to make sure the patient gets the appropriate care.
In 2011, Mayor Mitch Landrieu named DeSalvo health commissioner and asked her to re-envision the city’s entire approach to public health. Her goal was to transform the Health Department from a reactionary agency focused on clinical care into a comprehensive resource aimed at making New Orleans a healthier place to live.
DeSalvo worked with academics, business leaders and nonprofits to create Fit NOLA. She brought together more than 100 groups to tackle New Orleans’ chronically high rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, encouraging residents to become more physically active and improving access to nutritious foods, according to Governing.
“It’s no mere get-fit campaign. Fit NOLA represents a radical new paradigm for the health department. DeSalvo’s team is now focused on things like adding new bike lanes, building parks and bringing supermarkets to underserved areas,” according to the article.