Government, North Carolina, Public Health

Something is happening here

September 10, 2013

What it is ain’t entirely clear (said Buffalo Springfield of a different time and place)

There’s been a lot of activity in the state’s Division of Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality and Division of Public Health. Several highly respected individuals have left their positions. Some have left in public ways, with statements of great concern about what they perceive to be happening in state government. Some have not spoken publicly. But as I watch, listen and interact with people, I cannot avoid the conclusion that decisions are being made in government that are having a negative effect on NC. We are losing outstanding, long-term government employees who care deeply about the people of this state. North Carolinians will suffer if necessary health and dental services are not provided to those who need them, and if we allow the environment to become degraded.

Every time I go to a national meeting, I get asked, with incredulity, “What is happening in NC?” We used to be among the most respected states in the country in public health and the environment. Public health and business issues were kept in reasonable tension, with appropriate balance. We created the models; we were the model. At risk is our state’s leadership, hard-working people’s jobs, fairness, fundamental services to the people of North Carolina and the future of this state—whether we will be a leader and pacesetter or a follower, whether we will care for the less fortunate among us and try to raise them up or whether we will turn our backs on them, hoping that, in invisibility, they will disappear. Years of research and progress in understanding the causes of poverty and underuse of health and dental services show that ignoring the problems won’t make them disappear. Taking services from people who need them will almost guarantee that those people will show up at emergency rooms when their health and dental problems become intolerable. This will put unreasonable and unfair social and economic pressure on our hospitals to solve problems that should have been dealt with elsewhere.

We should not have lowered taxes in this state. Tax revenue is essential to provide needed services to keep NC strong. We should not be gutting environmental protections that will keep our water supply safe for future generations. We should agree to expand Medicaid. 28 states now are moving toward expansion; we are not among them. Partly, as a result of the decision not to expand Medicaid, we will be in the third quartile in the U.S. with respect to the number of uninsured people in the state. Finally, we need a state government that attracts and retains the best and the brightest, where people can speak up without fear of retribution. We all are in this together.

We can do better, together. Barbara



Ben Anders


Dr. Rimer, I wholeheartedly agree, and thank you for mentioning dental care in this piece! We'll continue the fight to regain our phenomenal state's position as a leader in public health. Ben Anders BSPH 2011 DDS 2016

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.