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Health Department leader honored for public health outreach and advocacy

Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, guides the Health Department mission to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. His work as the county’s chief public health strategist recently received national recognition.

Advocacy and outreach are big wins for public health 

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) named Dr. Chen the 2019 National Advocate of the Year. On July 10, NACCHO announced the winner at its annual meeting in Orlando. Dr. Chen with 2019 NACCHO Advocate of the Year Award

The award recognizes a local health leader’s outstanding accomplishment to build relationships with members of the U.S. Congress. The award also highlights:

  • Advocacy and outreach.
  • Creation of better health policy outcomes. 

“Our members of Congress rely on us to understand local public health efforts, data, and emerging issues,” said Dr. Chen. “We are committed to collaborating with them to make sure federal programs and policies keep our residents and communities healthy and safe.” 

Leadership builds strong relationships 

Relationships with Congress members help inform their policy positions and votes. Over the past 10 years, Dr. Chen has developed personal relationships with district and congressional staff—regardless of party affiliation—who:

  • Respond to his messages.
  • Reach out to seek input.
  • Arrange meetings with staff and members of Congress when they are in the district.

He has similar relationships with NACCHO and Trust for America’s Health staff to understand and leverage national public health efforts. 

Here is one example that shows how Dr. Chen builds relationships with our congressional delegation. In September 2017, he attended a community function where he talked to district staff. He learned U.S. Sen. Patty Murray wanted to convene a roundtable discussion during the congressional recess. The topic was on public health emergency preparedness. 

In April 2018, after he helped with the roundtable, Sen. Murray’s staff sent Dr. Chen a legislation draft. It was to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). He gave input on the bill and received updates throughout the year. 

Later, Dr. Chen scheduled a Health Department orientation for a new district staff member. The staffer visited our Emergency Operations Center where she learned:

  • More about local public health emergency planning and response.
  • How the Department relies on the PAHPA.

NACCHO CEO Lori Tremmel Freeman, MBA, praised Dr. Chen and Health Department staff. She said they have become a “trusted messenger and resource on public health matters” to members of Congress and their staff. 

Learn more about Dr. Chen’s strategic work to improve health in our communities and his background.