Mayor Eric Garcetti, the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles.

The Logistics of Leadership: Mayor Eric Garcetti on Vaccine Distribution, Equity, and Pandemic Preparedness in Los Angeles

Stretching from the edge of the Pacific Ocean to the top of the Hollywood sign, Los Angeles (L.A.) is the second largest city in the United States with a population of nearly four million people. The sprawling metropolis has faced intense challenges grappling with the pressures of pandemic response, vaccine distribution, and systemic racism. With a rapidly declining COVID-19 case count, L.A. continues to lead the way in implementing preventative public health measures through equitable vaccine distribution.

Collaboration during COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has elevated the public health response in L.A. to the national stage. As the epicenter of southern California, the city has faced insurmountable pressures on healthcare systems and local governments. Both L.A. and California were among the first to implement strict public health measures to prevent large gatherings and deter the spread of COVID-19, as early as March 12, 2020. Since L.A. lacks its own city-level health department, Mayor Garcetti partnered with mayors and healthcare officials from all 88 cities in the larger L.A. county, encompassed under the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. In reference to leadership during a crisis, he stated: “I learned that leadership is not about what you say. It’s what you do. And it’s really about your ability to execute on logistics.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti, the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles (Right), was virtually interviewed by Dr. Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School, (Left) for the Voices in Leadership web series for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles (Right), was virtually interviewed by Dr. Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School, (Left) for the Voices in Leadership web series for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Addressing Preventable Public Health Outcomes

Known for its highly diverse population, L.A.’s leadership must take into account the various inequities in health, income, and education when implementing policy. L.A. is home to the wealthy Hollywood elite. It also encompasses some of the most impoverished and exploited communities in the U.S. With white families earning 90 times more than Black families, L.A. is home to one of the U.S’ largest income inequality gaps.

Reallocation of police Funding

Along with the entirety of the U.S., L.A. has a long history of systemic racism. Reflecting on the pandemic response, the murder of George Floyd by police, and the recent violence against Asian women in Atlanta, Mayor Garcetti shared: “These are reflections of the same thing — inequity. Health inequity, racial inequity, housing inequity all tie together.” And “when you tie these things together, you start to understand how the solutions are also tied together.”

Voices in Leadership webcast series enhances leadership, connecting high-profile leaders with the Harvard School of Public Health community. hsph.me/voices