The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) recognizes the importance of forging a strong future for local governmental public health so that North Carolinians may live long, healthy, and meaningful lives. Despite challenges, health departments across the state have persevered for decades to maximize available resources to improve the well-being of their communities through programs, services, and partnerships. The COVID-19 pandemic drew widespread attention to the work of local public health and the challenges it faces. While the pandemic was not the cause of these challenges, it provides an opportunity to examine and highlight the important and quality work of local public health, as well as the ongoing resource needs and opportunities for improvement. To develop a vision and path for achieving a strong future for local public health in North Carolina, the NCIOM, with funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, convened the Task Force on the Future of Local Public Health (the task force).
The task force was co-chaired by Leah McCall Devlin, Professor, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Lisa Macon Harrison, Health Director, Granville-Vance Public Health; John Lumpkin, President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and Vice President, Drivers of Health Strategy for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina; and Vicki Lee Parker-High, Executive Director, North Carolina Business Council. They were joined by 65 other task force and steering committee members, including representatives from local public health, health nonprofits, state and Tribal health and human services, state and local government, academia, health care, business, and other sectors. The task force met 11 times between August 2021 and May 2022. In addition, two work groups were convened for in-depth discussions on the topics of public health data and workforce. Work group members included members of the task force as well as additional experts and interested persons. Work group discussions and ideas for recommendations were brought to the full task force for consideration. The task force made seven recommendations and detailed 25 action-oriented strategies for accomplishing them.
Although the work of public health encompasses a broad spectrum of sectors, including academia, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, philanthropy, health care, and state governmental public health, the scope of this task force was specifically focused on goals for the future of local governmental public health. The term “local public health” will be used throughout this report in reference to local governmental public health and local health departments. Other sectors are called upon in connection with strategies throughout this report related to their potential as partners, supporters, and promoters in the future vision for local public health in North Carolina.