Member Spotlight: Danny Staley

April 27, 2017|2:50 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Danny StaleyDanny Staley, MS, is director of the North Carolina Division of Public Health. Staley began his career in public health in 1992 after graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in health education, followed by a master’s degree in community health administration and wellness promotion. In June 2011, Staley joined the North Carolina Division of Public Health.

What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to become a state health official?

I worked for more than 20 years as a local health director in North Carolina with varying governance structures. That experience led me to the idea of working at the state level to bring about health improvement.

Was there someone who influenced you to lead a health department?

Leah Devlin, the former state health director for North Carolina. Her passion for public health, along with her ability to see potential, inspired me.

What is your morning ritual?

I stumble into the kitchen, find yogurt, eat most of it, then head to the treadmill.

What do you do to stay healthy?

Live, laugh, and love. I eat healthy and I remain physically active.  

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

Nürnberg, Germany. Also, Paris, when time allows. My home in the North Carolina mountains is great, as well.

What are your favorite hobbies?

High performance driving on a closed race course, music, and hiking.

How has public health changed during your time in the field?

Things really have changed a lot during my time in public health. Early in my career, we focused on access to care, and that challenge continues for many of my communities. Today, rather than focusing simply on access, we really have to focus on surveillance and policies to address the social determinants of health.

What do you love most about the public health work you do?

What I love most about this job is the great colleagues I work with to address what often seems to be unsolvable problems.

What do you find most challenging about public health?

It is consistently challenging to accomplish great and monumental work with very little budget.

What are your primary public health priorities?

One priority is turning the tide on the opioid epidemic. The hope is that we get to a point where we’re focused on preventing addiction and the secondary conditions that come with IV drug use. Another priority is reducing infant mortality. North Carolina is a state that has continually struggled with the rates of infant mortality, especially in minority populations. By implementing our maternal health strategic plan, which focuses on life course perspective and addressing social determinants, we expect improvements.

What is something you’re most thankful to have been a part of during your career in public health?  

I’d say I’m most thankful to have helped pass legislation for tobacco-free restaurants and bars in North Carolina. This happened ten years ago, but it was a major event, especially in a tobacco-producing state like North Carolina, where tobacco has long been king.