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Gail Carter-Hamilton, the Department of Public Health's first Racial Equity Officer. Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia.
Gail Carter-Hamilton, the Department of Public Health's first Racial Equity Officer. Photo courtesy of City of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Department of Public Health hires its first Racial Equity Officer

Gail Carter-Hamilton will lead the charge of health equity in the city.

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Since January 2022, Gail Carter-Hamilton has been the city of Philadelphia’s first Racial Equity Officer in the Department of Public Health. In this position, she is responsible for centralizing and leading efforts by the Health Department to ensure that its operations and activities are done with racial equity. She will also help plan how to address health inequities in the city. 

The city’s Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said of the role’s creation and Carter-Hamilton’s appointment, “Many of the public health issues that Philadelphia faces are due to or exacerbated by historical and systemic racism. The Health Department is committed to ameliorating these problems from a place that acknowledges that racism. Having Ms. Carter Hamilton in the Health Commissioner’s Office gives her a bird’s eye view of our operations and the ability to help guide our processes. I am excited to have someone with her expertise and dedication on the team.”

Other major cities like New York and Chicago have also added a racial equity officer to their health department rosters in recent years. 

Carter-Hamilton got her Bachelor of Science in nursing from La Salle University and her Master of Science in nursing from Wilmington University. She worked in various local hospitals and Philadelphia city schools before coming to the Department of Public Health. 

She worked in the Department’s COVID-19 Containment Division as the Pediatric Partnerships Manager. In this role, she coordinated with schools and early childcare settings to put the city’s COVID guidance into place. She was in this role from August 2020 until her appointment as the Chief Racial Equity Officer in January. 

“I am committed to working to address health equity and health justice in Philadelphia. So many of our communities are struggling under the dual burden of systemic racism and the pandemic, which led to much worse outcomes in communities of color. I look forward to ensuring that racial equity is at the heart of our operations and that we are able to build sustainable partnerships throughout the city in order to maintain robust public health programs,” said Carter-Hamilton

Carter-Hamilton’s appointment is further proof that Philadelphia is looking to move the needle in addressing health equity. 

In March 2022, Accelerate Health Equity, a collaborative health initiative, launched in the city, in which 11 health care organizations from across the region are joining forces with an eye toward building a healthier Philadelphia. 

Just weeks later, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation announced the launch of the new Institute for Health Equity. Through a new $15 million commitment, the Institute will look to address health equity by providing increased access to digital health resources, increasing cultural competence in medicine, and improving maternal health care outcomes. 

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