Almost 1 in 7 Americans (12.9%) struggle with hunger, facing times when there is not enough money to buy food. That’s more than 41.2 million people. On any given day, one in ten people in Orange County, California, or about 315,000 people, including one in six children, are at risk of food insecurity, that is, they lack reliable access to a steady supply of food.
Dr. Eric Handler is a pediatrician with over 30 years of experience who also happens to be the public health officer of Orange County, California, the 6th largest county in the country. Eric has initiated campaigns on hunger and mental health in innovative ways, that are not typical of a public health officer, to address these social determinants of health. His innovative work has spread to other areas of the country. We interviewed Eric about his Mission Innovation called Waste Not OC, the collaborative campaign to end hunger in Orange County. During our conversation, he also offered us his practical insights on leadership, innovation and mentorship.
Prior to his work in Orange County, Eric served as the deputy secretary for Children’s Medical Services in the Florida Department of Health from 1996-2000. He served as the Chief Medical Officer for the Florida Department of Children and Families between 2000 and 2003. Eric has received both his BA and MPH degrees from UCLA and his MD from Chicago Medical School.