Detroit URC Board Partner Spotlight: An interview with Joneigh Khaldun, Director and Health Officer of the Detroit Health Department

For over 100 years, the Detroit Health Department has been working to promote the health and safety of Detroiters -- all 670,000 of them.  From providing immunizations and screenings to preparing for public health emergencies, promoting the well-being of over half a million people is no small task, but Joneigh Khaldun, MD, MPH, FACEP, the Director and Health Officer of the Detroit Health Department, is up to the challenge.

Tapped by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to lead the Public Health Department nearly two years ago, Khaldun has been leading the charge to develop a sustainable public health system in Detroit by addressing the social determinants of health, incorporating neighborhood based solutions, and working with partners who share common goals.

Khaldun recently took a break from her busy schedule to speak with us about how her involvement in the Detroit Urban Research Center (Detroit URC) supports her Detroit Health Department mission.  

Joneigh and fan

How did you first get involved with the Detroit URC?

I first became involved with the Detroit URC when we worked with some of its partners, including University of Michigan (U-M), School of Social Work and Michigan Medicine, on a project funded by U-M Poverty Solutions, connecting community health workers with Detroit residents to improve access to healthcare. I was thrilled to become even more involved as a Board Member when I became Director and Health Officer of the Detroit Health Department in February of 2017.

How has the Detroit URC helped you advance your mission?

One of the values that we have at the health department is partnership.  It is so important in public health to not just launch single programs, but to build collaborations across sectors and with the community, so that we can create healthy environments and communities.  Detroit URC has been a great way to collaborate and share our work.

Joneigh at table

What do you gain from being on the Detroit URC Board?

I love being able to connect with academic partners, nonprofits, and community members, all with the same focus and mission to improve health.

What initiatives are you currently working on?

In 2018, we completed a robust community health assessment, engaging over 1500 residents and stakeholders about their vision for the community, as well as their identification of community needs and assets. We will be releasing this data in the spring and invite all stakeholders to participate in our Community Health Improvement Planning Process.

Joneigh and group

In 2018, we also launched iDecide Detroit, an initiative that is youth-led and youth-informed and brings together over 20 medical providers to form a network of care around reproductive health and contraception for people of all ages.

Based on the needs we identified in the community, the Detroit Health Department also opened its own Teen Health Clinic inside the Butzel Family Recreation Center at 7737 Kercheval in Detroit, where we provide reproductive health services and counseling, birth control, and STD testing and treatment.  We provide services regardless of insurance status, and we have evening and weekend hours. For more information, people can call our hotline, 833-9-DECIDE, or visit our website at

We've also been very focused on integrating our services and bringing services into the neighborhood.  In 2018, we launched a neighborhood-based outreach program that provides comprehensive needs assessments for people living in foreclosed homes, connecting them to jobs programs, financial services, and programs addressing health needs.  We also launched an initiative in which outreach workers go door-to-door in neighborhoods where children have historically been found to have elevated lead levels. These staff connect the families in these neighborhoods to education and testing services.  I look forward to continuing this neighborhood based strategy moving forward. It is important that we eliminate barriers to access for residents and meet people where they are.

What do you wish more people knew about the Detroit Health Department?

The Detroit Health Department is open, and we provide a broad scope of services to Detroit residents.  We are also excited to partner with and support other organizations in their work. We cannot address public health challenges alone, and we look forward to expanding our partnerships even more in the future!


Previous Interviews With Board Partners

Suzanne Cleage Director of Neighborhood Growth, Eastside Community Network (ECN)

Lidia Reyes-Flores, Executive Director of Latino Family Services

Guy O. Williams, President and CEO of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice 

Sheilah Clay, President and CEO of Neighborhood Service Organization

Angela G. Reyes, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation


The Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center
University of Michigan School of Public Health (U-M SPH)
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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