The Maine Department of Health and Human Services recently hired Ian Yaffe to direct 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. He will begin work on September 7.

Yaffe, who currently serves as chief operating officer of the department’s COVID-19 Social Supports Program, was selected following a national search. In his current role, he oversees 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.

From 2010 to March 2021, Yaffe led Mano en Mano, a statewide nonprofit serving immigrant and farmworker communities through educational, health, housing and advocacy supports. He also serves in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.

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 to ensure the department’s efforts are informed by and reflect the needs of the communities it seeks to serve and collaborate with Maine CDC and DHHS leaders statewide, including the department’s manager of diversity, equity and inclusion, to coordinate a variety of health equity projects and initiatives.

Central to the work is the implementation of a $32 million federal grant awarded to Maine CDC 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. 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 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 funding sources and build a team within OPHE, Maine CDC and the entire department to advance the work.