Local health official awarded for community work

DOWAGIAC — A local health official has been acknowledged for her work in Cass County,

Danielle Persky, deputy health officer and director of public health promotions for the Van Buren/ Cass District Health Department, was recently chosen as the recipient of the Cass County Community Advocate Award for dedication and efforts working with the Cass County Great Start Collaborative.

The Community Advocate Award honors those who are making significant contributions to their community through their time, actions, talents and dedication.

“I am extremely humbled by it,” Persky said. “One thing running through my mind is that I’m passionate about what I do. To be recognized feels good, and I was truly grateful. [It is] nice to know people recognize my passion and commitment to my work.”

Persky has been with the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department for three-and-a-half years and has taken an active role in many other organizations. She has served leadership roles with United Way of Southwest Michigan, Van Buren Health Advisory Council, Southwest Michigan Child Care Resources, Southwest Michigan Pre-Natal Quality Improvement Collaborative and the GSC.

The GSC is a partnership of community leaders, business owners, charitable and faith-based organizations, health and human service agencies, educators and parents. According to its website, the groups work together to provide a network of resources that help families obtain services that will allow their children to succeed in every facet of their lives. The collaborative offers families a one-stop resource, where all of Cass County’s programs and services have been researched and can be matched to a family’s needs.

“We at the health department, as well as everyone in the community, are lucky to have Danielle as a leader and advocate for public health,” said Dr. Larry Wile, medical director for the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. “She continues to lead the fight to recognize and change the systems that prevent our residents from improved health and well-being. She is a results-driven person, with unique talents and strategic planning, health promotion initiative, community mobilization and the uncanny ability to pull various groups together to stay focused on the task at hand. Because of this, she is recognized as a true community asset throughout various service organizations and is very well-respected and appreciated. It is nice to see her efforts rewarded with the Cass County Community Advocate Award.”

Representing the GSC, Persky worked closely with the health department and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi to host a Community Resource Forum on May 3. Geared toward service providers, more than 60 individuals from 29 agencies made brief presentations about their services, and then had the opportunity to network with each other. She also played an integral role in creating a community resource guide for the county.

“As a collaborative, we’ve been doing a lot of good work,” Persky said. “[We’re] doing a lot of behind the scenes work addressing equity in health and other areas of the community. Social justice issues, including the impact that race and poverty play in health and educational outcomes. Lots of planning and strategizing for work, but that’s where most of my passion lies. It’s been a full year of some really good stuff.”

While she is grateful for the acknowledgment of her work, Persky knows her work is never done.  According to Persky, the GSC is making baby bags for expectant and new parents, which will include a pack of diapers, wet wipes and more. She also said that the GSC’s Equity Task Force will be partnering up with the Social Justice Alliance of Cass County. The alliance aims to provide Cass County residents with education regarding racial issues and social justice

“We’re moving with them to see if we can make a greater impact,” Persky said.

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