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A new partner in community health
By Cassius Lockett, Public Health Policy & Planning Director

Staff Perspective

Greetings, Get Healthy San Mateo County Community, 

As the new Public Health Director at the San Mateo County Health System, I am excited to have the privilege to serve all who live, work, and play in San Mateo County. Having worked at the federal, state, and local level, I’m excited to continue working to reduce health disparities and promote health equity here in San Mateo County.

I reached a turning point early on in my career after learning that nearly 50% of U.S. adults have at least one chronic disease condition, which we know increases health disparities and healthcare costs. My interest in health equity and the social determinants of health – the social, economic, and physical conditions where people are born, grow, live, work, and age – peaked then and remains strong today. How can factors outside someone’s genetics and behaviors be responsible for most of the barriers necessary to promote sustainable behavioral change and healthy, equitable communities? 

The latest 2016 County Health Ranking ranks San Mateo County as one of the healthiest counties in the state. While this is good news, we can do much better at addressing the conditions that create health disparities. The report shows 10% of San Mateo County children live in poverty, one in five adults are overweight, nearly one in five adults have no leisure time for physical activity, and one in four face severe housing problems such as overcrowding, high housing costs, inadequate plumbing or kitchen infrastructure.

Get Healthy San Mateo County works to influence social determinants of health by creating change in the opportunity structures that impact housing, neighborhoods, the economy, and schools. We address these barriers by influencing socioeconomic factors within policy, systems, and environmental change. Whether improving education to create pathways to better health or implementing environmental change to improve active transportation systems that increase biking, walking, hiking and other options, we work with cities and community partners to develop scientific upstream approaches for place-based interventions.

Earlier this month, our initiative released the San Mateo County Collision Report. The report has been well received, highlighting 39% of bike and pedestrian collisions occurred within a quarter mile of schools. The report also highlights key policy related strategies that could be implemented to build neighborhoods that allow residents to safely walk and bike while enforcing street safety. We look forward to working with more cities to implement policies that help create healthier streets for all users.

I am excited to work with all of you to help improve the health of San Mateo County. As a group representing diverse organizations, we have a unique opportunity to champion a shared common vision supported by mutually reinforcing activities and continuous communication to create conditions for everyone, everyday, everywhere in San Mateo County to be healthy and thrive and live well and long lives for generations.