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Secretary of Health Renee Mallory Discusses Goals for ADH

2 min read

Renee Mallory began at the Arkansas Department of Health in 1988 and served as chief of staff and deputy director. She was interim secretary of health under Gov. Asa Hutchinson from May 2022 to January 2023. In August she became the secretary of health under Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

A native of Pike County, Mallory graduated from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia with a Bachelor of Science in nursing. She is a licensed registered nurse.

Did the pandemic result in any lasting changes at the Department of Health?

On the positive side, ADH is a stronger agency, especially in the area of technology. Our public health lab now has equipment for broader and faster testing of samples and can communicate electronically with providers for both requests for testing and reporting results. Hospitals and other health care facilities can also send test results electronically for communicable diseases that must be reported to ADH. Prior to the pandemic, these results were still commonly reported by fax. On the negative side, as with other health care providers and other types of entities, ADH has seen a shortage of workers.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the department in the past 35 years?

Technology is one of the biggest changes over the past 35 years. Computers, cellphones and other electronic equipment have changed every aspect of the way we do business. Another area within ADH that has seen change is epidemiology. Over the years, the need to be able to determine the causes, prevention and control of diseases has become increasingly apparent. The number of epidemiologists in the department has increased in order to study the many public health-related diseases that exist. To tie the technology piece to the epidemiological piece, the new area that has had much attention within ADH, especially in the last three years, is public health informatics. Public health informatics plays a significant role in outbreak management, biosurveillance, disease reporting and electronic lab reporting.

What are your goals for the Department of Health?

ADH’s last five-year strategic plan was completed in early 2020 right about the time the pandemic hit. This plan was to go to the end of 2024. With the pandemic-level activities behind us, ADH is in the process of developing our new plan. This process involves input from all ADH employees. Health outcomes being discussed to be part of our plan are many and include heart disease, cancer, maternal and infant mortality, opioid/illicit substance overdose and health care-associated infections. We also are considering health behaviors or preventive measures such as tobacco use, access to healthy food, food safety, oral health, suicide prevention and cancer screening and prevention. More to come on this as we complete the process.

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