Joseph Kanter

Assistant State Health Officer and Region One Medical Director

Louisiana Department of Health

Joe Kanter is the lead public health official for the Greater New Orleans area, where he coordinates clinical services, emergency preparedness, infectious disease control, and strategic health initiatives for the region. As director of health for the City of New Orleans, Joe led Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s comprehensive opioid mitigation strategy, which included issuing a first-in-the-state standing order for naloxone, equipping the New Orleans Police Department with the reversal medication, increasing availability of medication-assisted treatment, promoting harm reduction services, and initiating a city-wide effort to reduce the stigma of addictive disorders.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University in 2005. He went on to earn both a Master of Public Health and an MD degree from Tulane University in 2010.

BOLD SOLUTION: Joe launched a media and advocacy campaign to mobilize assets surrounding the opioid epidemic and reduce the stigma of addiction. His strategy started with communications and key stakeholder engagement by identifying community and industry champions. He then coordinated messaging, developed talking points, and launched an earned media drive. The campaign was successful in that City Council voted unanimously to fully legalize and authorize syringe service programs; the mayor signed the bill and counted it among his publicized accomplishments; the harm reduction organizations felt comfortable in expanding their operations and promoting their services more directly; and public discourse surrounding addiction became less stigmatizing and more person-centered.
We cannot continue to let social determinants and institutional racism drive health outcomes. The realization of equity is the next big 'rebuilding' effort New Orleans must undertake, and I aim to build partnerships with my peers and colleagues -- certainly in public health, but also in politics, business, education, and criminal justice—because this is a cause worthy of resources and commitment.