By Britta Orr, Executive Director, Local Public Health Association of Minnesota
On Aug. 18–19, the Local Public Health Association of Minnesota (LPHA) hosted Tricia Schmitt, who is responsible for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The staff at OMB are the budget experts within the White House and write the President’s annual budget proposal to Congress, in collaboration with various federal agencies. Ms. Schmitt toured and met with staff from the Minnesota Department of Health, Washington County Department of Health, Minneapolis Health Department, and Dakota County Department of Health.
This visit was jointly planned by NACCHO and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to showcase the work of local and state health departments and how federal investment supports their efforts to protect the public.
During the visit, local health officials discussed a variety of issues, including accreditation and foundational capabilities for health departments, emergency preparedness grant requirements, and changes to local health department activities in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.
At the Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment, Ms. Schmitt saw a hazardous waste disposal site that doubles as a local distribution network in the event of an emergency. Staff emphasized the federal support that has allowed them to train to be ready when they are called upon in an emergency.
In Minneapolis, Ms. Schmitt visited the public housing authority where Community Transformation Grant dollars have been leveraged alongside Statewide Health Improvement Program funding to improve nutrition, physical activity, and smoking policies for low-income residents. She also met a staff member in the Minneapolis Health Department who is funded through CDC’s Public Health Associate Program, which trains entry-level public health professionals through serving in federal, local, state, tribal or territorial health roles.
Ms. Schmitt also visited an immunization clinic at Dakota County Health Department that demonstrated the use of emergency preparedness structure and processes. This gave her a feel for the on-the-ground service delivery, patient flow, and incident command structures for emergency response.
After the visit, Ms. Schmitt said, the site visit “reinforced the critical role state and local health departments serve in transforming our healthcare system.” This experience was a true highlight of the past year at LPHA, and a great example of the value of NACCHO membership. We learned a lot about the federal budget process and landscape, and Ms. Schmitt got to see Minnesota governmental public health in action. We all hope and plan that the relationship will continue into the future.
While not all local health departments may have the opportunity to talk with staff who work for the President, there are many other opportunities to educate policymakers. All local health departments should make sure that Members of Congress and others who make decisions that affect the health of our communities understand the work you do.
NACCHO has resources that can help you, including sample meeting request letters, template factsheets, guidance videos and more. Go to NACCHO’s website to learn more or contact Eli Briggs, NACCHO Government Affairs Director.