Mike Bacon began his career at WCHD serving as its Director of Environmental Health for 11 plus years, then went to the McHenry County Health Department as their Public Health Administrator for another 11 plus years, only to return to WCHD as Public Health Administrator here in Winnebago County for the last 16 plus years. Over this latter period of time under Bacon’s leadership, the Department brought in greater than $110M in grant revenue to expand both the scope and depth of public health improvement and protection services for the community. These efforts pioneered work with community partners to develop a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment that brought together 6 different funding organizations and approximately 15 collaborating organizations in 1999 that continues today to be a collective, periodic assessment of assets and needs related to health in the community through the Rockford Health Council.
Most recently, Mike worked with local partners to develop three different grant supported initiatives to address some of this community’s most significant health problems: Maternal-child health outcome improvement interventions have been enhanced with the addition (2011-2013) of four partner agencies through the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHVP) multi-year grant, one of only six awards in Illinois). The chronic disease prevention initiative has been enhanced with the addition (2012-2013) of nine partner organizations in Winnebago and Boone Counties through the We Choose Health Initiative (WCH multi-year grant, one of the top five in funded amount in Illinois). In-Person Counselor grant funding received to support outreach, education and enrollment for uninsured and underinsured through health care coverage options under the Affordable Care Act.
Expanding access to primary care led to a partnership between WCHD and Crusader Community Health (2000-2005) and to the development of a school-linked health center (2000 to present) that has been a partnership with the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Rockford Public Schools and the then Janet Wattles Mental Health Center, now Rosecrance.
Other efforts led to securing seed funding for developing one of Illinois’s first bioterrorism plans (2001) through the assistance of a 22-agency planning structure. WCHD became one of 12 local health departments nationwide to pilot National Public Health Preparedness Standards and was one of the original 11 local health departments to be certified by the National Association of City County Health Officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as public health ready (2004). This was preceded by the development of an annual influenza surveillance network utilizing local sentinel indicators that is now grown into a northeast Illinois surveillance system tying together over 45 hospitals electronically for closer tracking of annual influenza and other syndromes locally and within the region, all for the purpose of early emergency response. In 2005-2006 WCHD developed one of Illinois’ first Pandemic Influenza Response Plans and led health care partners and the community in responding to the first influenza pandemic in 41 years (2009-2010).
WCHD became one of a select number of local health departments in Illinois and four other states to be part of a multi-state learning collaborative voluntarily testing national local health department accreditation standards (2007-2008) and was recognized as meeting the then pilot accreditation criteria by receiving 191 points out of 200 points.
Mike was instrumental in the opening of the 555 North Court facility. Under his leadership, the acquisition and renovation of 555 North Court Street was completed in two years (2010-2011). He consolidated three separate Health Department service locations by merging those offices into the new facility. This was the first facility upgrade in over 32 years for local public health services. This location represents the Health Department’s continuing efforts to provide integrated health services to Winnebago County residents, and provides a one-site source of related services, especially for maternal and child health education and support.
Mike established a black male health program with Board of Health encouragement, to target health inequities (1999 to present). This initiative has expanded through grants, with the guidance of a dedicated black male health coordinator and advisory team to address key chronic disease disparities. In 2004-2005 this program, using a community participatory research approach, developed/conducted a minority health survey and completed a strategic action plan based on the results. This program received IDPH’s 2013 Excellence in Community Leadership Award as part IDPH’s celebration of Black History Month (February) acknowledging that this program was the only sustained initiative of its kind in Illinois.
Early in Mike’s career, he was instrumental in applying continuous quality improvement concepts to food protection services, with WCHD winning the prestigious Samuel Crumbine Award in 1982 for the best local food protection program in the country. In that same time frame, he also implemented a new approach to on-site waste-water systems and subdivision suitability review based on soil borings. These were the first known efforts in the country to depart completely from percolation testing and are currently being implemented across Illinois and are recommended practice by the U.S. EPA for nationwide application.
During Mike’s tenure at the McHenry County Health Department, the National Association of County Health Officials selected McHenry County Health Department’s Migrant Health program (1992) as one of the five finalists for National recognition for multi-cultural prevention health services. Mike developed a comprehensive, community-wide approach to controlling tobacco use by minors, which stresses monitoring/data gathering, education/public awareness and ordinance/enforcement. The initiative (plan) generated much community support, group support, and media coverage, and was reviewed and included by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health as a model for other communities (1990-1992).
The McHenry County Health Department’s breast cancer education and screening initiative was selected as one of the five prevention programs from Illinois for consideration by the US Secretary of Health and Human Services for their Health Promotion Award, 1994. This program ultimately received CDC’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
Mike has been recognized and honored many times over his 40 year career. In 1992, Mike received Illinois’ annual Groundwater Protection Award for outstanding leadership in developing groundwater protection programs through Winnebago and McHenry County Health Departments. This award is issued by the Governor of Illinois by recommendation of the State’s Interagency (ten agencies) Committee on Groundwater.
In 1992 he was selected as Scholar to the Centers for Disease Control/University of California Public Health Leadership Institute. The experience was for a class of 50 public health leaders from across the country as part of a year-long learning community to expand and develop skills to improve the effectiveness of public health organizations.
In 1995, he received the Theta Award presented annually by the McHenry County Defenders for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to protecting the environment. This was awarded for progressive on-site wastewater and groundwater protection programming in McHenry and Winnebago Counties.
Mike shared…“This is a milestone year for public health in Rockford and Winnebago County in that it completes 160 years of preventive health services on behalf of and in partnership with the community. Over that period the most important achievements are the outbreaks that didn’t happen, the injuries avoided, the prolonged quality and years of life, and the gains in healthier birth outcomes. It has been a privilege to serve in various capacities in this work. It is not about “me”, but rather “we”. What has been accomplished is owed to the team of professionals that have chosen public health for a career and our many partnerships across the community. Improving the public health is more successful when it is viewed and enacted as a shared responsibility of the entire community…developing a culture of health.”
In his retirement, Mike will continue to be an advocate for the prevention of disease and the improvement of health for all individuals.