Ian Yaffe will be the first director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Population Health Equity, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday.

Central to Yaffe’s work will be implementing a $32 million federal grant awarded to Maine CDC in June to address COVID-19-related health disparities and advance health equity among underserved populations at higher risk. This includes racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural communities, DHHS said in a written statement.

Ian Yaffe

In June 2020 Maine had the nation’s largest racial disparity in COVID cases, with statistics showing that members of the state’s small but growing Black communities were contracting COVID-19 at a rate more than 20 times that of white residents.

Yaffe now is chief operating officer of DHHS’ COVID-19 Social Supports Program. In his current role, he oversees the agency’s work to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate COVID-19 services including contact tracing, testing, quarantine and isolation support, and vaccinations, with a focus on collaboration with community-led organizations.

He was selected for his new role following a national search, according to DHHS. Yaffe starts his new position on Sept. 7 at a salary of $91,374, according to the agency.

From 2010 to March 2021, Yaffe led Mano en Mano, a statewide nonprofit serving immigrant and farmworker communities through educational, health, housing and advocacy support. Yaffe also serves in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve as a chief boatswain’s mate. He holds a master of public administration degree from the University of Washington and a bachelor of arts from Bowdoin College.

“The Office of Population Health Equity is critical to our goal of advancing the health of all Maine people and strengthening our relationships with communities experiencing disparities across Maine,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a prepared statement. “Ian Yaffe has helped us to build and strengthen those relationships through his COVID-19 social supports role and will now lead our vital work to reduce inequities in Maine’s health care and public health systems by addressing the underlying problems that contribute to these disparities.”

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the new office will be aimed at “removing barriers that limit the full potential of all Maine people to lead health, safe and opportunity-rich lives.”

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