Transformational Leaders Inspire Communities at the Local Level to Improve Population Health

By George T. Roberts, Jr., MHA, FACHE, NACCHO President and Chief Executive Officer of the Northeast Texas Public Health District

I’m thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to serve as President of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) this year. For 25 years, NACCHO has served as the voice of local public health and NACCHO stands ready to help local public health professionals and their partners serve their communities. I see public health professionals as important transformational leaders as we unite our communities, address critical health issues, and work to improve population health.

If there was ever a time for public health leaders to step up and be transformational leaders, now is that time. We have a valuable platform to pull people together through our unique perspective to improve population health. As public health professionals, we want all people in our communities to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. But so often, we wait to be invited into discussions about developing solutions. Transformational leaders don’t wait to be invited to the table; we build the table and invite other leaders to help. It is our responsibility to be conveners.

What is a transformational leader? Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Leadership in Turbulent Times, talks about how Abraham Lincoln exhibited transformational leadership during his presidency. Goodwin writes that it “inspires followers to identify with something larger than themselves—the organization, the community, the region, the country—and finally, to the more abstract identification with the ideals of that country.”

Transformational leaders in public health who come to mind include Jonas Salk, best known for his development of one of the first successful polio vaccines; Charles Drew, surgeon and researcher who pioneered blood banking and transfusions; and Clara Barton, nurse and founder of the American Red Cross. All these individuals helped to transform health as we know it.

Since we are in the business of transforming health, the theme for my year as NACCHO President is, you guessed it, Transformational Leadership. What a great time to highlight the NACCHO members making a difference in their communities every day through their transformational leadership. NACCHO members are each other’s greatest resource, which is why we want you to share your stories of challenges and successes. It is my hope that through the shared experience NACCHO offers, we will all learn and be inspired to sharpen our leadership skills, so we can become the transformational leaders our communities need.

It is going to be a fantastic year! As we grow as public health leaders, not only will we experience more success, but also become the catalysts for our communities to be more successful—the quintessential outcome of true leadership. What a privilege it is to serve in public health!

To share your story of transformational leadership or to recommend a leader to be highlighted, please contact Taylarr Lopez, NACCHO Communications Specialist, at tlopez@naccho.org.