Georgia Summit Creates an Agenda for Revamping Division of Public Health to Improve Health and Health Care of State Residents
On December 12, 2005, staff with the Georgia Department of Human Resources held a conference to redesign how the Division of Public Health works to improve the health of Georgians.
Summit for a Healthy Georgia, held in Marrietta, Ga., drew 776 people, 46 percent of whom were employees of a state, district or local public health agency. Other participants included legislators, local elected officials, health care provider groups, hospital health care systems, school system staff, private business managers and citizen advocates.
The project yielded the following results:
- Participants identified overarching goals for the public health system of Georgia, including:
- Sharing a commitment to optimal health for all Georgians.
- Creating sustainable partnerships that promote and support safe, healthy and productive communities.
- Developing and advocating for sound policies and best practices that improve health and safety.
- Participants created an agenda to move forward in the following areas:
- Strategic planning. Staff members will meet to develop a focused vision, mission, goals, objectives and activities for the state public health system.
- A health report card. The report card will focus on a set of priorities for health status goals that can be measured annually at all levels of the state's public health system.
- Engagement. Staff will develop plans to enhance communication among the different branches of the state's public health system. This has begun with bi-weekly e-mail updates and monthly video conferences.
- At the local level, nine of the state's 18 health districts have begun translating overarching goals into local actions. The three key focus areas in this work are:
- Infant mortality
- Risk behavior
- Emergency preparedness
- The summit produced seven areas of emphasis for communities, businesses and organizations to focus on to improve the health of all Georgians. These areas of emphasis demonstrate the complex nature of health and the multiple factors that contribute to health. The areas of emphasis identified are:
- Improve access to health care.
- Promote the community culture and conditions necessary for healthy lifestyles.
- Decrease the number of uninsured and underinsured Georgians.
- Identify and eliminate inequities in health status.
- Address poverty as a root cause of poor health status.
- Engage educational partners.
- Promote safe communities.
A summary of the conference and post-conference activities is available online.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this unsolicited project with a grant of $25,000.
Other funders included the Kaiser Family Foundation ($50,000), the individual public health districts of Georgia ($6,000 each, for a total of $108,000), and the Division of Public Health ($200,000).
After the Grant
At the state level, work continues in the following areas:
- Georgia's Division of Public Health plans to formalize and implement the new directions in 2007.
- Project staff is working with academic institutions in Georgia's university system for policy development, advocacy and implementation related the state's health system redesign.
- A legislative study committee is at work aligning both the mission and financing of public health for the future.
Locally, examples of post-conference activities include:
- Staff from the Northeast Health District (10 counties in the Athens, Ga., area) brought together various partners to improve health in their region. To address cardiovascular disease, for example, they purchased blood pressure devices to put in area barbershops, beauty parlors and churches.
- Staff from the Northwest Health District (10 counties in the Rome, Ga., area) are holding meetings to plan activities around two areas of interest developed during the conference:
- Promoting healthy lifestyles in children through partnerships with education.
- Increasing access to primary care.
Additional activities at the state level included:
- Updating the Summit for a Healthy Georgia Web site to provide documents generated at the Summit (including the great success stories people shared). As of April 2007, the Web site was not active.
- Reconvening the Public Health Action Change Team (PHACT), a broad and diverse group of the public health employees from many programs and districts, to begin developing a public health strategic health improvement plan.
- Engaging external stakeholders and partners to join in designing a comprehensive statewide action plan for improving health status in Georgia.
- Compiling and sharing information about best practices in community partnerships for health in Georgia.
- Developing recommendations to stakeholders about how they can contribute to improving the health of all Georgians:
- Develop population health skills, such as knowing how to describe health status, working with groups to develop community initiatives and learning how to facilitate group work.
- Know your community's health status and the health status of Georgia and the factors that contribute to health. Consider using a process to map the resources, health status, needs and opportunities to identify priorities for action. Health status information is available on the OASIS Web site.
- Learn about the project(s) going on in your community to improve health. You can find contact information and highlights on the district/county Web site.
- Help identify new community partners and stakeholders in your community and help build partnerships.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Summit for a Healthy Georgia: Redesigning How the Division of Public Health Works to Improve Georgians' Health
State of Georgia Department of Human Resources (Atlanta, GA)
Dates: December 2005 to December 2005
Stuart T. Brown, M.D.
Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Pamela G. Russo