Task Force Begins Developing Vision for NC Local Public Health

Blog Featured | August 31, 2021

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By Brieanne Lyda-McDonald

 

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) kicked off our first meeting of the Task Force on the Future of Local Public Health in North Carolina on August 19. A group of over 60 task force members and interested parties discussed the governance, roles, and responsibilities of local public health in the state. The group will meet nine more times through April 2022. A full summary of the meeting is available here.

The vital role of local public health in supporting North Carolina communities has never been more evident. Yet huge challenges exist in this sector, including per capita funding for public health in North Carolina decreasing by 27% in the past decade; nearly half the US public health workforce planning to retire or quit within the next five years; and a recent national survey of public health workers finding that 53% were experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and/or suicidal ideation.

The goal of this task force, supported by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, is to develop a vision for the future of local public health in North Carolina. Building a strong base of local public health will help improve equitable access to healthy opportunities for everyone in our state and provide a strong foundation for economic development in our communities.

When the task force concludes, nearly 60 stakeholders representing expertise in local public health, health equity, data, communications, business, health care, philanthropy, and other related fields will produce a final report with recommendations to local and state policy makers and stakeholder groups to guide the evolution of local public health in North Carolina. The work of the task force is happening in conjunction with a special initiative of the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors (NCALHD) to improve the visibility and influence of public health as a critical part of the state’s health care safety net infrastructure, supported by a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. The NCALHD will lead future action planning to implement task force recommendations with local public health departments, and additional partners may carry forward regional and state public health action planning, including policy development for consideration by the NC General Assembly.

“To pause and be thoughtful about the future of public health is challenging during the intensity of a pandemic response; and yet, it is also the most critical time to be working on elevating and evolving our practice,” said task force co-chair, Lisa Macon Harrison. “Preventing disease and promoting health across populations is our work. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of our role as well as the changes our system needs so we might get somewhere by design, not just by perseverance.”

The task force will engage in discussion and develop recommendations across many topics, including:

 

  • Roles and responsibilities of local public health
  • Data modernization
  • Public health workforce
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Upstream drivers of health and the work of local public health
  • Communicating public health information to communities

 

Co-chairs for the task force are: Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, Professor, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Lisa Macon Harrison, MPH, Health Director, Granville Vance Public Health; John Lumpkin, MD, MPH, President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation; and Vicki Lee Parker-High, MBA, Executive Director, North Carolina Business Council.

Task force meetings are open to the public. If you are interested in attending, please reach out to Brieanne Lyda-McDonald at blydamcd@nciom.org for registration information.