A New Challenge for State Health Departments

It is an honor to serve as board president this year. NACDD has contributed so much to my professional growth and development over the past four years. I look forward to giving back and helping to raise awareness about the value that NACDD brings to its Members, partners, and the general public.
Each year for the past three years, NACDD’s President’s Challenge has empowered the board president to highlight and engage Members in a significant opportunity in our field.

Last year, Mehul Dalal, MD, MSc, MHS, chronic disease director of Connecticut, challenged us to think about how we can “Learn, Lead, and Thrive,” through improving our management practices and supporting professional development growth in our departments. Namvar Zohoori, MD, MPH, PhD, director of the Center for Health Advancement at the Arkansas Department of Health, led our first President’s Challenge in 2016, inviting us to examine health equity’s importance in underpinning all of our efforts to reduce the burden of chronic disease.

This year, I am pleased to invite you to find ways to share and to promote innovative population health improvement models. To do that, you will be asked to identify and recognize at least one innovative model for population health improvement and chronic disease prevention in your community.

While hospitals, payors, and health care providers consider a more limited definition of “population” by focusing on the panel of patients they serve, we tend to view outcomes on a more geographical or societal basis. However, our end goal of improved health is the same, and we are using many of the same techniques and approaches to improving population health to accomplish our objectives.

While lately, it seems that the public immediately thinks of hospitals and payors when they think of population health improvement, now in my fourth year on the Board, I know that so much of that leadership is quietly coming from chronic disease programs across the country. You are doing the heavy lifting to build partnerships and change policies with hospitals and healthcare providers, employers, education, housing, transportation, and communities to improve health outcomes—both clinical outcomes and outcomes driven by the social determinants of health.

We should embrace this chance to build collaboration with other programmatic areas in public health –ì such as immunization, injury, and environmental health –ì and provide a platform for chronic disease professionals to be leaders in this area as they connect with their peers.

There are many ways you can contribute to this challenge:

  • Submit your ideas and examples to be featured in our new podcast series, “Innovations in Population Health” to publications@chronicdisease.org
  • Contribute success stories on innovative models in population health to PublicHealthSuccess.org.
  • Engage in social media efforts to raise awareness of your activities in population health, using #pophealthworks
  • Follow NACDD’s social media channels (Facebook.org/chronicdiseasedirectors and Twitter.com/NACDDInfo) to hear more about professional development opportunities on this subject
  • Hold at least one partner meeting to discuss how you can replicate successful population health models in your community

Through this year’s Challenge, along with sharing knowledge about what is working with each other, we have the ability to tell our story and build recognition about the role of NACDD and chronic disease directors in population health improvement. I am honored to begin this journey with you. 

If you need a little inspiration on how to get started on building innovative partnerships in health, take a look at NACDD’s two new podcasts from this year’s invitational Chronic Disease Academy:

As always, I look forward to sharing our experiences and learning together. Thank you for all you do for the public’s health.

Jean O’Connor, JD, DrPH, FACHE
Board President 2017-2018
National Association of Chronic Disease Directors

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