SPRINGFIELD - When it comes to meeting the state's public health needs on a strict budget, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck is drawing on a world of experience while trying to come up with fresh ideas.

Hasbrouck, 47, who has served nearly a year as the state's public health director, said he learned a lot while traveling the world for 11 years for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies. He saw the need to be creative when resources are limited, he said.

"We know that the state is broke, and we're all forced to do more with less, and we're all forced to make some priorities in suggesting how best to use the public health dollar," he said.

The department has almost 200 programs with services including food safety testing, child vaccinations and health statistics gathering. The agency also works with the state's 96 local health departments.

Hasbrouck said he intends to send resources where public health statistics are the worst.

"The only way we can get healthier as a state is to address who is least healthy among us, and that's really the mantra," he said.

To that end, a community mapping project showing the needs of various populations across the state is part of the department's five-year strategic plan.

It could reshape the conversation with state legislators when it comes to funding, he said.

"So we'll be able to say, 'Well, you're getting this amount, which is proportional to the burden of the condition in your district,'" Hasbrouck said.

Saying "all public health is local," Hasbrouck also stresses developing "robust partnerships" with local health agencies.

Walt Howe, McLean County Health Department director, praised him for having regional meetings throughout the state to collect ideas from local officials.

"That was very refreshing," he said. "It gave us the ability to tell him what our barriers are and what we were seeing as challenges to providing good public health, and he seemed to be very receptive."

Additionally, the department is looking to address shortages in health care, which may get worse as more people seek medical care under the Affordable Care Act.

"Under my leadership, we are a health department for the entire state, not just the Chicagoland area," Hasbrouck said. "We are really committed to reducing disparities across different groups."

Dr. Reed Tuckson, managing director of Tuckson Health Connections, headed Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles when Hasbrouck was a medical student there. He immediately saw promise in the San Diego, Calif., native, he said.

"I think there's no question that having a public health leader who first and foremost is passionate about the health of all people, whether they are rich or poor, black or white, rural or urban, is great for the state of Illinois, and that's certainly Dr. Hasbrouck," Tuckson said.

Although state Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, who co-chaired a House emergency medical services task force, commends Hasbrouck's ideals, he said the director needs to be practical, too. For example, the department initially said regulations, should require a minimum of two emergency medical technicians on rescue runs, but Moffitt said many small-town departments struggle to fill that. The department later changed that rule, he said.

"We can have the ideal model of a delivery system ... my point is if we cause a delay, a longer response, then we probably have not improved the system," Moffitt said.


I'm the city editor at the Quad-City Times. You can reach me at dbowerman@qctimes.com or 563-383-2450.