We want you to get to know the people who make Healthy & Active Before 5 the powerful collaboration that it is. In this series, we’ll be speaking with members of our Executive Committee and other partners who bring unique perspectives on early childhood health to our table. Today we’re speaking with Diane Dooley, MD, MHS, FAAP. Dr. Dooley is a Pediatrician with Contra Costa Health Services.
What do you and/or your organization do?
I work for Contra Costa County Health Services, which provides health services to low income people throughout the county. Within that, the organizations that I work for are the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and Health Centers – the locations where many people receive healthcare – and I see patients at the Concord Health Center. I’m also a pediatrician at Contra Costa Health Plan, the agency that provides health insurance to low-income people in Contra Costa, where I work with families to help them raise healthy children. Most of the patients I see are Spanish-speaking, low-income residents. As a Quality Physician for Contra Costa Health Plan, I work on improving our health care system for these patients.
How did you get into your current field?
My dad was a doctor, but initially I wasn’t too interested in becoming one myself because he worked all the time. However, I went to Stanford, majored in Human Biology, and realized that since I was very interested in people and medicine, it would be best for me to pursue a medical degree. It was a big decision because at that point in time, only 15% of medical students were women. Before medical school, I did a fellowship with the UCSF Health Policy Program. It was during that time that the policy aspect of health and medicine became a focus of my career.
What is one thing you would like to see changed or improved for children in Contra Costa County?
I’d really like to see families with children better-off economically. I’d also like for there to be more affordable programs for children so that even if their families don’t have the money, they can attend an after-school program or quality childcare. During the summers and after school, so many children just sit at home and don’t get to participate in the activities that their more well-off peers do.
What do you like about being a part of Healthy & Active Before 5?
I was a founding member of Healthy & Active Before 5, which something I’m very proud of. As a mother of three daughters, a pediatrician, and past school board member, I have seen how important it is to give kids a good start in life.
I really enjoy working with the staff and Executive Committee. It’s great to be part of an organization that is well-run and focused on helping kids, and everyone works well together to make amazing things happen for children in Contra Costa. I’m particularly proud of how organizationally sound HAB45 is. Our leadership structure facilitates discussion, yet allows things to move ahead. We’ve hired the right people, and because of that we’ve been able to do remarkable things.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I have two grandkids, and it has been interesting for me to witness how much nutritional advice has changed and improved since my children were young, particularly the advice around breastfeeding. When I first started in pediatrics, there wasn’t the emphasis on breastfeeding like there is today — we delay starting infants on food for much longer now. When my kids were little, they didn’t have nearly the amount of exposure to marketing for unhealthy foods or the foods themselves. Today’s families have to do so much more to keep children away from that path. In general people are much more cautious with their children than they were in the past, and families are hesitant to take kids to play at the park. Some of this fear is justified, but the result is that kids aren’t given the opportunities to go outside and play like they were in the past. For all of these reasons, I’m truly excited to see how HAB45’s programs will impact the children of Contra Costa County.