Excellence in State Public Health Law / TeamWork Projects and Outcomes
Too often the state public health agency is isolated in its relationship with elected officials. Our idea was to:
- bring together people interested in population health policy who work in different corners of a state capital
- give them room, physically and metaphorically, to discuss their goals, opportunities, and constraints
- provide some core readings, technical assistance, and a structured project environment to see whether, over the course of a year, they could build teams focused on improvement in a single area.
Thirteen states have participated in the Excellence in State Public Health Law (ESPHL) program and TeamWork: Leadership for Healthy States. Team projects ranged from improving access to dental health services for Medicaid-eligible children in Hawaii and encouraging joint-use agreements to improve community access to physical activity in Arkansas to providing a seamless health transition for prisoners on community re-entry in South Carolina and improving access to healthy foods in tribal lands and pueblos in New Mexico.
Participants in both cohorts cited professional growth and improved leadership skills, but perhaps most importantly they reported substantial improvements in group cohesion, organizational-level communication, and mission orientation. A member of the first cohort called our approach “a force multiplier.” According to a member of the second: “I learned the importance of … having face-to-face time to talk about things that are important.”
The nurturing of trust and shared values was critical—in the words of one participant, it all comes down to “relationships, relationships, relationships.” And as a former governor and member of the ESPHL Advisory Committee noted at the conclusion of our first cohort, breaking down silos within state government through collaborative approaches “may be the only way we get things done.”
In a policy environment that we anticipate will increasingly rely on state drivers, programs such as ESPHL and TeamWork offer another potential tool to foster collaboration, achieving efficiencies and improved outcomes.