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Ian Yaffe has been named to head the new Maine  Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Population Health Equity. (COURTESY PHOTO)

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced the hiring of a director for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Population Health Equity, a newly established office devoted to identifying and addressing health disparities throughout Maine.

Central to this work is the implementation of a $32 million federal grant awarded to Maine CDC in June to address COVID-19-related health disparities and advance health equity among underserved populations at higher risk, including racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural communities.

Ian Yaffe, who currently serves as chief operating officer of Maine DHHS’ COVID-19 Social Supports Program, was selected following a national search.

In his current role, he oversees the department’s work to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate COVID-19 services including contact tracing, testing, quarantine and isolation support, and vaccination, with a focus on collaboration with community-led organizations. The program has served 11,036 Maine people to date.

From 2010 to March 2021, Yaffe led Mano en Mano, a statewide non-profit serving immigrant and farmworker communities through educational, health, housing, and advocacy supports. He additionally serves in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve as a chief boatswain’s mate.

Yaffe has an master of public administration degree from the University of Washington and a bachelor of arts from Bowdoin College.  

“The Office of Population Health Equity is critical to our goal of advancing the health of all Maine people and strengthening our relationships with communities experiencing disparities across Maine,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “Ian Yaffe has helped us to build and strengthen those relationships through his COVID-19 social supports role and will now lead our vital work to reduce inequities in Maine’s health care and public health systems by addressing the underlying problems that contribute to these disparities.”

“Maine CDC is committed to advancing the health of Maine people who have long faced unacceptable inequities, including the disparities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine CDC.

“I’m honored to be selected for this role and to deepen relationships and partnerships with community leaders and organizations that are central to advancing health equity across Maine,” Yaffe said. “Together, we will promote health equity through a clear commitment to illuminating and addressing root causes of health disparities as well as implementing community-led solutions.”

In his new role, Yaffe will lead data-driven interventions to advance health equity for a number of populations, including but not limited to racial and ethnic populations, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, individuals with disabilities, and other groups. He will work in partnership with stakeholders to ensure the department’s efforts are informed by and reflect the needs of the communities we seek to serve and collaborate with leaders across Maine CDC and DHHS, including the department’s manager of diversity, equity and inclusion, to coordinate a variety of health equity projects and initiatives.

While Maine has already reduced racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 transmission, Maine CDC will advance this work through the grant by improving community COVID-19 testing, expanding and improving data collection, developing state and regional health equity infrastructure to better capture community input on public health activities, and mobilizing community partners to advance healthy equity over the long-term.  

While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address health disparities in Maine and across the country, OPHE’s work will extend well beyond the boundaries of the pandemic, from chronic disease prevention and treatment to environmental health and public health systems. The department will work to expand sources of funding and build a team within OPHE, Maine CDC, and the entire department to advance this critical work.

Yaffe will begin his new role Sept. 7. 

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