By Taylarr Lopez, Communications Specialist, NACCHO
On July 9–11, over 1,300 local public health professionals gathered in Orlando for the 2019 NACCHO Annual Conference. Attendees participated in dozens of insightful sharing sessions, learned from leading experts, and discovered solutions to improve local public health in their communities.
This year’s theme, “Improving the Nation’s Health through Public and Private Partnerships,” focused specifically on how local public health professionals can build strong, effective cross-disciplinary partnerships. Each general session held its own focus, however; all echoed the importance of developing effective partnerships, addressing the social determinants of health, improving health equity, and telling compelling stories.
Attendees connected with old friends and networked with new peers at several conference events including the President’s welcome reception, the Public Health Accreditation Board Health Department Learning Reception, and networking lunches. Guests also took part in the first-ever NACCHO Annual Golf Tournament.
Conference-goers and those who watched the livestreams of the general sessions were very active on Twitter. Tweeters used the conference hashtag, #NA19, which generated over 19 million impressions. Some of the top #NA19 influencers include Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, Surgeon General of the United States; Soledad O’Brien, Emmy-award winning journalist and Chief Executive Officer of Starfish Media Group; and Umair Shah, MD, MPH, Local Health Authority and Executive Director for Harris County Public Health (TX).
Tuesday: The Essence of Private and Public Partnerships: Connecting the Dots
On the first day of NACCHO Annual 2019, attendees participated in pre-conference workshops and sharing sessions. Lori Tremmel Freeman, NACCHO Chief Executive Officer, opened the first general session, by welcoming attendees to Orlando. She went on to recognize the NACCHO staff; the NACCHO Board of Directors; the NACCHO Annual Conference Committee; and staff from Orlando County.
Nasseam McPherson James, MBA, MSW, Assistant Health Department Director for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, welcomed attendees on behalf of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
Jerry Demings, the Mayor of Orange County addressed the audience by encouraging them to explore Orlando and its diverse community.
Raul Pino, MD, MPH, Interim Health Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, spoke about the public health challenges that Orlando is facing and discussed how effective partnerships have been critical to eliminating health disparities and improving health among residents.
Scott A. Rivkees, MD, Florida Surgeon General, advocated for education to increase vaccination rates to prevent diseases. He highlighted local health department initiatives that are aimed at mitigating the growing HIV virus. Dr. Rivkees mentioned that local health departments are taking “bold, new approaches,” like mobile clinics and working with dating apps to raise HIV prevention awareness. He closed by encouraging meaningful exchange among agencies and building new relationships.
New NACCHO President George T. Roberts, Jr. recognized outgoing President Kevin G. Sumner, MPH, Executive Director of the Middle-Brook Regional Health Commission (NJ). Roberts, who serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Northeast Texas Public Health District, expressed the need for local public health professionals to become transformational leaders in their communities. He shared that it’s important that transformational leaders have a seat at the table.
Randall Hyer, MD, PhD, MPH, Vice President of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs for Dynavax Technologies, discussed how his company developed a hepatitis B vaccine to help prevent increased rates in adults.
Pamela Hymel, MD, MPH, FACOEM, Chief Medical Officer of Experiences and Products for Disney Parks, discussed her company’s wellness program, which focuses on ensuring cast members have access to healthy food options, opportunities for exercise, and implementation of a park-wide smoke-free policy.
The keynote speaker, Leonard Marcus, PhD, Director of the Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, closed out the program by discussing qualities of leadership and mentioned that public-private partnerships are about building and understanding complexity, then developing solutions.
Attendees also mingled and toured the Exhibit Hall during the President’s Welcome Reception and enjoyed a few networking events.
Wednesday: It’s Not Them, It’s Us: Reframing Public Health for More Effective Cross-sector Collaborations
On Wednesday, Freeman opened up the day’s general session by recapping the previous day and thanking the Annual Conference Committee, exhibitors, sponsors, the NACCHO staff, and the public health workforce for their continued efforts to improve health outcomes across the nation. She also introduced Jose Montero, MD, MHCDS, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Health.
Vice Admiral Dr. Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, Surgeon General of the United States, discussed the importance of communicating the science around health to the American people, while being cautious of being overbearing. He emphasized the value of being able to effectively communicate to the entities that fund local public health work and make sure messages resonate. Dr. Adams also pushed for well-resourced communications teams at health departments.
Wednesday’s general session, presented by the de Beaumont Foundation, featured a dynamic panel of experts. John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, FACOEM, Former Commissioner of Health in Tennessee, introduced the day’s panel, which included Soledad O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer of Starfish Media Group; Dr. Nat Kendall-Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of the FrameWorks Institute; and Shelia Hiddleson, RN, MS, Health Commissioner for the Delaware General Health District in Ohio and PHRASES Fellow.
Dr. Dreyzehner kicked off the panel by saying, “We all know partnerships are essential, but they’re hard to develop. They require commitment and constant, effective communication.”
Nat Kendall-Taylor spoke about how framing public health messaging is just as important as the science and how sometimes messages that don’t resonate with the public can be pushed away. He explained by saying, “The disconnect happens because ‘culture’ stands in between what you say and what people hear. We have to see and appreciate the diverse cultures of the people you serve, so you can work with them more effectively.”
O’Brien highlighted the importance of telling captivating stories. She said, “Storytelling is a skill, yet there’s a sense that everyone in public health should be able to use their expertise to translate their work into good stories. But we have to teach people how to tell stories and tell them well.” O’Brien encouraged the audience to be proactive with their storytelling to build relationships and understanding.
The final speaker, Hiddleson discussed the difficulties that public health professionals have getting out into their communities to engage and connect, due to frequent day-to-day workloads. She closed the session by expressing the significance of trusting and training staff members to build partnerships on behalf of their agencies.
Attendees also celebrated this year’s award winners at the 25th Anniversary Awards Gala, including over 50 Model Practice Award winners, seven Local Health Department of the Year awardees, four National Health Security Strategy awardees, and a number of Promising Practice Award winners.
Thursday Morning: Transforming Local Public Health Practice Through Global-local Exchange
Thursday morning’s general session was led by Umair Shah, MD, MPH, Executive Director and Local Health Authority of Harris County Public Health (TX). Speakers included Michael Edelstein, MD, Consultant Epidemiologist, National Infection Service, Public Health England; David Fleming, MD, Vice President of Global Health Programs at PATH; and Nafissa Cisse-Egbuonye, PhD, MPH, Health Director of the Black Hawk County Health Department (IA).
Speakers discussed the importance of sharing across the global health system and shared their own experiences of integrating global health strategies into their own agencies.
Dr. Shah kicked off the session by saying, “We truly live in a global society and, as people move from jurisdiction and country to country, our domestic public health practice has to consider how we can connect with and learn from our global health partners.”
Next, Dr. Fleming addressed the audience and expressed a need to integrate global health strategies into local health models because of culture and language barriers. Regarding how to implement global health strategies into local health, he said, “There’s no one approach to implementing global health practices into local health departments. The key message is you need to start where the community is to accurately identify the problems.”
Dr. Edelstein highlighted the need to establish global networks to connect with local experts. In regards to surveillance, he discussed that the idea of “local” doesn’t exist anymore. He stated, “You’re within 24 hours of everywhere in the world, so we can’t work in isolation. We must be able to connect the dots between the seemingly singular cases of disease each country sees.”
Dr. Cisse-Egbuonye discussed the significance of engaging immigrant populations who are suffering the most from health inequities. She mentioned that one of her health department’s approaches to helping the immigrant populations in her community is by learning how they want to be helped. She expressed that rural health departments should be intentional in creating representation for immigrant groups and they should try to hire professionals within that community.
Thursday Afternoon: Innovating Successful Public Private Partnerships in Health — The Blue Zones Project
The final general session began with Freeman’s state of the association address. She shared NACCHO’s advocacy activities and capacity-building opportunities developed for local health departments and their partners.
The general session featured the Blue Zones Project, a community-focused health promotion initiative that leverages policy-based approaches designed to have an impact on social and environmental factors to enable healthy choices to be the easy choice.
The session featured speakers Richard Killingsworth, MPH, Director for the Center for Public Private Partnerships in Health at the University of Delaware; Nick Buettner, Vice President of the Blue Zones Project; Deb Logan, Executive Director of the Blue Zones Project in Southwest Florida; and Melissa Lyon, MPH, Director of the Erie County Department of Health.
Killingsworth encouraged attendees to engage partners who are atypical to local public health efforts; assess initiatives for leadership, resources, evidence-plan, and accountability to succeed; and reach out to the private sector and find one approach to collaborate and partner.
Buettner discussed the Blue Zones Project and how they traveled to communities all over the world that had high rates of life expectancy to find the commonalities that contribute to their longevity. He said that most of the people in these communities had great attitudes about aging, were very family- and friends-oriented, and integrated some sort of physical activity into their daily routine. He closed by saying, “There is a need for sufficient funding and talent, an evidence-based design, and performance and impact measures to see successful changes in our communities.”
Logan then discussed how the Blue Zones Project is improving the health of her communities in Southwest Florida. She shared that because of the infusion of the Blue Zones Project into the existing health work, people have been able to remain engaged and Collier County has been ranked number one in national well-being.
The final speaker, Lyon discussed the Blue Zones Project that her department launched in Cori, PA. She shared that funders were asked to contribute equal amounts and nontraditional partners were sought after. She closed her presentation by saying, “We must have courageous conversations about doing new initiatives and engage partners that can help create significant impacts.”
This year’s conference provided attendees the opportunity to learn from leaders in the field, connect with potential partners, gather new resources and skills to implement in their own agencies, and engage in conversations to help build a framework to address and improve health in their communities. Save the date for NACCHO Annual 2020, July 7–9 in Denver. For more about the conference, visit http://nacchoannual.org.