This entry is the second in a series of “NACCHO Annual preview” blog posts, which feature interviews with presenters ahead of NACCHO Annual 2017. Ron Bialek, MPP, President of the Public Health Foundation, and Jack Moran, MBA, PhD, CMC, CQM, Senior Quality Advisor for the Public Health Foundation, discuss ways that local health departments can build strategic partnerships to address health threats in the community in their upcoming presentation, “Community Chief Health Strategist: Transforming the Way You Approach Health in Your Community.” Below, Mr. Ron Bialek shares the importance of local health departments becoming Chief Health Strategists.
Why is it important for local health departments to become the Chief Health Strategists in their communities?
There is one organization that is directly accountable to an entire community for health matters and that is the local health department. While this is the case, resources are often insufficient for a local health department to address the health needs of an entire community. This requires a local health department to be creative in the ways it identifies and meets the needs of its community. Having the capabilities and taking the actions of a Chief Health Strategist are essential for leveraging and aligning limited community-wide resources to address community health needs.
What are the benefits or barriers to addressing health threats through a collaborative approach with community partners?
The benefits are tremendous. If you look at a community like Oklahoma City, where the local health department has leveraged hospital, transportation, education, and other resources to meet needs, you see how and why collaboration is a necessity. The residents are served better and health status is improving, as a result of collaborative work led by the health department. Certainly there are many barriers such as time and competition, but to serve a community well and to maximize resources to improve health requires investing in relationship-building and a collaborative approach to health.
Why do many communities fail to implement effective strategies to address identified health needs?
The local health department may not be empowered, or encouraged, by its governing body to spend time, effort, and energy developing and nurturing relationships and collaborating with entities that may not seem health related—like transportation, parks, grocers, and others. Developing effective strategies requires time and risk. Sometimes taking risks results in an effort not succeeding. But, with no risk, desired community health gains cannot be achieved. Local health department governing bodies should encourage and reward risk-taking, even if this occasionally results in an initiative not being successful.
What is the Population Health Driver Diagram and what can local health department leaders and staff learn from it?
The easiest way to think about a Population Health Driver Diagram is as an actionable logic model. In public health, we seem to love logic models. However, these models often do not lead to action. The Driver Diagram articulates what you are trying to achieve and the many drivers that can help you achieve the goals that have been articulated. In many communities, there are organizations working on many of the drivers. What’s key in developing a Driver Diagram is to bring together the stakeholders who are addressing drivers, help them see how they fit into a strategy to address the identified health issue, and begin to align efforts across organizations.
There are two big lessons we have learned from using the Population Health Driver Diagram. First, when drafting the Driver Diagram, you can’t “own” it. When you present a draft to stakeholders, they have to be given the opportunity to change drivers and rework the Driver Diagram—and yes, they sometimes tear apart the draft. At the end of the day, the stakeholders all begin to “own” the Driver Diagram. Second, by showing the primary and secondary drivers that can contribute to solving a community health challenge, stakeholders begin to see where they fit into the solution. They begin to see how they can work together to achieve a common goal. This reduces competition and often results in developing new and stronger relationships across organizations.
Have you been to NACCHO Annual before? If yes, what value do you find in attending NACCHO Annual? If no, what are you most looking forward to about the conference?
Yes, I have been attending NACCHO Annual for probably 20 years, if not more. I always find this an invaluable opportunity to learn from dedicated, smart, and passionate individuals serving the public each and every day. The learning occurs through sessions and, equally important, through the many conversations between sessions. I’m looking forward to what this year’s conference has to bring.
To learn more about how to build strategic partnerships with your health department, participate in Ron Bialek and Jack Moran’s session at NACCHO Annual 2017. For more information on this session and to register for NACCHO Annual 2017, visit www.nacchoannual.org.