Justice and Society Program Announces Teams Selected for Excellence in State Public Health Law Program

July 1, 2013

Contact: Michael Green
Associate Director, Justice and Society Program
The Aspen Institute
202-736-2539 | [email protected]

Washington, DC, July 1, 2013 – A new initiative of the Aspen Institute’s Justice and Society Program will bring together teams of policy makers across governmental agencies in eight states for a year-long series of retreats and training to deepen their capacity to work together to address public health issues.

The states selected to participate in the Excellence in State Public Health Law Program include Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. For each state, the State Health Officer or high-level designee will lead a team of health leaders from both houses of the state legislature, the Governor’s staff, and high-level officials from other agencies critical to addressing a health issue that the state identified as a priority.

The one-year program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, represents the first time that the Aspen Institute has partnered with State Health Officials. Upon completion of the program, participants will be honored as Fellows at a closing event in June 2014.

“We were delighted to receive these diverse projects, and particularly pleased at how strong these teams are and how successful they have been in engaging a broad range of government agencies and sectors,” said Meryl Chertoff, Director of the Justice and Society Program. Chertoff, a former New Jersey state official has taught about state government law at Georgetown Law School.

Added Leah Devlin, Professor of the Practice at the UNC-Gildings School of Global Public Health and a consultant to the program, “Our goal is to support states, and also to build an ecology of cooperation throughout state governments to improve health outcomes. Using public health law and policy is the strongest approach.”

Team members will gather for a leadership retreat in Glen Cove, New York in early August to kick off their efforts. In the year that follows, members will work together within their state, and share perspectives and experience the other state teams.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, and a member of the program’s advisory committee (listed below), said he expects that the partnerships that develop both within and between the participating states will outlast the yearlong experience. “States are facing complex public health issues in very challenging economic times,” Benjamin said. “This project provides a unique opportunity for eight states to strengthen the partnerships with other sectors that are vitally important to health improvement in communities.”

Excellence in State Public Health Law Projects:

Arkansas: Increasing availability of sports for female high school students in Arkansas, and increasing their participation in physical activity (Team Leader: Stephanie Williams, BSN, RNP, Deputy Director for Public Health Programs, Arkansas Department of Health)

Connecticut: Improving the inconsistent structure, governance, resources and function of Connecticut’s 74 local health departments through cross-jurisdictional sharing or regionalization (Team Leader: Jewel Mullen, MD, MPH, MPA, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health)

Hawaii: Improving delivery of oral health services for high-risk children to improve health equity in Hawaii (Team Leader: Loretta Fuddy, ACSW, MPH, Director of Health, Hawaii Department of Health)

Louisiana: Enhancing environmental public health regulations to improve health inspector’s retail food protection efforts in Louisiana, exploring options for recommended state standards for nutrition labeling and portion size, and establishing policies to facilitate procurement of healthy foods in state-operated food service facilities (Team Leader: John Thomas “J.T.” Lane, Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Public Health)

Minnesota: Reducing alcohol abuse and its negative consequences in Minnesota using policies that impact cost, availability, regulation of marketing, drinking and driving and treatment (Team Leader: Edward Ehlinger, MD, MSPH, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health)

Rhode Island: Assessing the need for and feasibility of using Neighborhood Health Stations to link programs enhancing the health and safety of residents, and the walkability of the built environment to target neighborhoods of 10,000 to 15,000 people suffering high concentrations of chronic disease or predisposing conditions, especially obesity (Team Leader: Michael Fine, MD, Director, Rhode Island Department of Health)

Virginia: Establishing a model process for developing public health law and policy in Virginia with an initial focus of using a public health law approach to promote reduction of chronic disease risk factors. Emphasis will be on food choices in government programs and institutions and shared use of physical activity facilities. (Team Leader: Cynthia Romero, MD, FAAFP, State Health Commissioner, Virginia Department of Health )

Washington State: Utilizing public health law tools to implement the Baby-Friendly Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in every hospital with a maternity care service as a tool to reduce rates of
childhood obesity in Washington State (Team Leader: John Wiesman, DrPH, MPH, Secretary of Health, Washington State Department of Health)

Excellence in State Public Health Law Advisory Committee:

Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

Hon. James Douglas, Executive in Residence at Middlebury College and former Governor of Vermont

Susan Gerard, Chair, Maricopa County Special Health Care District Board of Directors, former Arizona lawmaker and state Health Director

Hon. Christine Gregoire, Governor of Washington State, 2005-2013

Richard Hamburg, Deputy Director, Trust for America’s Health

Dr. Paul Jarris, Executive Director, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Martha King, Group Director, Health Policy Federal Affairs, National Council of State Legislatures

Carmen Hooker Odom, Advisor to the President of the Milbank Memorial Fund

Robert Pestronk, Executive Director National Association of County and City Officials (NACCHO)

For more information about the Excellence in State Public Health Law Program, visit www.aspeninstitute.org/esphl.

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