California Department of Public Health

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California Department of Public Health
California Department of Public Health logo.png
Agency overview
Annual budgetUS$ 3.5 billion (2011)
Agency executive
  • Tomás Aragón, MD, DrPH, Director and State Public Health Officer
Parent agencyCalifornia Health and Human Services Agency

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is the state department responsible for public health in California. It is a subdivision of the California Health and Human Services Agency. It enforces some of the laws in the California Health and Safety Codes, notably the licensing of some types of healthcare facilities. One of its functions is to oversee vital records operations throughout the state.[1]

On August 9, 2020, Dr. Sonia Y. Angell resigned as the CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. Governor Gavin Newsom indicated Angell's resignation was related to data issues with the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE) system that resulted in nearly 300,000 backlogged COVID-19 test results.[2] On August 10, 2020, Sandra Shewry was appointed as acting director and Dr. Erica Pan, California state epidemiologist, was named acting state public health officer.[3] On December 7, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tomás Aragón, MD, DrPH as the next Director and State Public Health Officer of the California Department of Public Health.[4]

Medical Marijuana Program[edit]

CDPH operates the Medical Marijuana Program, tasked with issuing identification cards under Compassionate Use Act of 1996, and California Senate Bill 420.

Kids' Plates Program[edit]

CDPH administers the state's Kids' Plates program, which funds programs to protect children through the sale of customized license plates featuring one of four symbols- Heart, Hand, Star or Plus sign in the plate message. Of the proceeds, 50% supports child care licensing and inspections, 25% supports prevention of child abuse and 25% supports accidental childhood injury prevention programs.[5]

Lead-contaminated lunch bag incident, 2007[edit]

In 2007 it was discovered that CDPH had distributed green canvas "EAT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES AND BE ACTIVE" lunch bags (soft lunch boxes) whose cover, lining, and logo "tested high for lead levels".[6] Although CDPH eventually asked that people not use 56,000 green or 247,000 blue lunch bags,[7] CDPH was criticized by an advocacy group for not notifying parents quickly enough of the presence of lead in the green ones.[8]

Medical Privacy Fines, 2009[edit]

In 2009 CDPH imposed two fines totaling more than $400,000 against Kaiser Permanente hospital in Bellflower, CA, for failing to prevent unauthorized access to confidential patient information. The first fine was in May, of $250,000. It was the largest under a state law enacted following widely publicized violations of privacy involving celebrities, including Farrah Fawcett, Britney Spears and California First Lady Maria Shriver.

A second fine, of $187,500, was part of an investigation into employees improperly accessing the medical records of the so-called Octomom Nadya Suleman and her children. [9]

Social Marketing[edit]

CDPH uses Twitter and Facebook to provide public health information.[10]

Office of Health Equity[edit]

The Office of Health Equity (OHE) was established, as authorized by Section 131019.5 of the California Health and Safety Code, to provide a key leadership role to reduce health and mental health disparities to vulnerable communities. The Deputy Director of the OHE reports to the Director at CDPH and works closely with the Director of Health Care Services.[11]

A priority of this groundbreaking office is building of cross-sectoral partnerships. The work of OHE is informed in part, by their advisory committee and stakeholder meetings. The office consults with community-based organizations and local governmental agencies to ensure that community perspectives and input are included in policies and any strategic plans, recommendations, and implementation activities.[11]

OHE is divided into the following three units:

Community Development and Engagement Unit's mission is to strengthen the CDPH’s focus and ability to advise and assist other state departments in their mission to increase access to, and the quality of, culturally and linguistically competent mental health care and services.[12]

Policy Unit's mission is to tackle complex projects that require input and collaboration across multiple agencies and departments, most of which are not traditionally thought of as health related.[13]

Health Research and Statistics Unit (HRSU) is a leading state unit in collecting data and disseminating information about health and mental health disparities and inequities in California. HRSU researches and produces data to fulfill statutory mandated reports and provides information and technical assistance to CDPH programs, state agencies, local health departments and stakeholders who are working to collect and report information on health and mental disparities and inequities in California.[14]

Licensing, complaints, and investigations[edit]

Division 2, Chapter 2 of the California Health and Safety Codes enumerates 13 types of facilities in Section 1250.1[15] including hospitals, skilled nursing, and hospice; these are generally regulated by the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health.

It has been criticized for lack of investigations and limited fines.[16] In 2014, lawmakers held a hearing[17] after investigative reporters raised concerns.[17] Cases from 2001 were reportedly still open as of 2014.[18]

In 2015, inconsistent enforcement of privacy laws was highlighted.[19]

Center for Infectious Disease[edit]


The Center for Infectious Diseases (CID) protects the people in California from the threat of preventable infectious diseases and assists those living with an infectious disease in securing prompt and appropriate access to healthcare, medications and associated support services.[20]

Public Health Efforts

  • Supports the investigation and diagnosis of infectious diseases of public health significance.
  • Identifies, prevents, and interrupts the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, emerging infectious diseases, vector-borne diseases, zoonotic diseases, and other contagious infectious diseases.
  • Leverages human and budgetary resources from government and non-government sources.
  • Conducts and coordinates public health surveillance and epidemiologic studies to assist in defining, preventing, and controlling infectious diseases.
  • Helps local health departments and community-based organizations plan, develop, implement, and improve prevention, control, care, treatment, and social support programs for infectious diseases.
  • Plans for and responds to natural or man-made emergencies due to infectious diseases.
  • Promotes evidence-based public health practice and program integration at the client level for seamless service delivery.
  • Provides reference and diagnostic laboratory services essential for the detection, epidemiologic investigation, control, and prevention of diseases caused by microbial and viral agents.
  • Provides support to local public health laboratory personnel for developing and maintaining high quality local microbial and viral laboratory services, including consultation and training in state-of-the-art standardized laboratory procedures.
  • Works closely with health officials in Mexico to protect and promote the health of people living in California border communities.
  • Coordinates education, communication, health improvements along the US-Mexico border.
  • Monitors diseases in California and Baja California Mexico to ensure that our border residents thrive.
  • Supports the public health and medical needs of refugees undergoing resettlement in California.
  • Administers the Refugee Health Assessment Program for the early identification and treatment of both infectious and chronic health conditions.


  1. ^ Figueroa, Teri (May 19, 2009), "No more free peeks at vital records", North County Times, San Diego, CA, archived from the original on September 5, 2012, retrieved May 20, 2009
  2. ^ Yamamura, Kevin; Colliver, Victoria. "Newsom indicates California health officer's abrupt departure related to test data problem". Politico PRO. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  3. ^ "Governor gives few details on top California official's exit". August 10, 2020. Retrieved August 10, 2020.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Governor Newsom Announces Appointments 12.7.20". California Governor. December 7, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  5. ^ Redding Recreation- Peter Griggs. "Kids Plates Program". Shasta Drowning Prevention. Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  6. ^ Bernhard, Blythe (September 20, 2007), "Lunch bags may be tainted: State health agency warns against soft lunch bags they distributed because they may be contaminated with lead", Orange County Register, Santa Ana, CA
  7. ^ Questions and Answers About Lead-Contaminated Lunch Boxes, Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, January 28, 2008, archived from the original on July 26, 2009, retrieved July 26, 2009
  8. ^ Lewis, Truman (September 21, 2007), "California's 'Healthy Lunchbox' Promotion Backfires: State now urges parents to toss the Chinese-made lunchboxes because of a lead hazard",, Los Angeles, CA
  9. ^ "L.A. Now". The Los Angeles Times. July 16, 2009.
  10. ^ [1] Archived July 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b "OHE About Us". Office of Health Equity, State of California. Archived from the original on November 23, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2016.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ [2] Archived 2016-11-23 at the Wayback Machine Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  13. ^ [3] Archived 2016-11-23 at the Wayback MachinePublic Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  14. ^ [4] Archived 2016-11-23 at the Wayback Machine Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ "DIVISION 2. LICENSING PROVISIONS CHAPTER 2. Health Facilities [1250 - 1339.59]". Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  16. ^ "'All they got was a slap on the hand.' Is California low-balling penalties in nursing home death investigations?". Archived from the original on January 10, 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Quick dismissal of caregiver abuse cases puts Calif. patients at risk". Reveal. September 10, 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  18. ^ Radio, Southern California Public (March 4, 2014). "LA County closed nursing-home safety cases without investigations". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  19. ^ Ornstein, Charles (December 31, 2015). "The Consequences for Violating Patient Privacy in California? Depends Where the Hospital Is". ProPublica. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  20. ^ "Welcome to CID".

External links[edit]