TeamWork: Overview and FAQs

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States’ policies shape where we live, learn, work, and play, and impact the public’s health. While there is evidence for what works to improve populations’ health outcomes, many states lack robust partnerships capable of mobilizing stakeholders, re-examining existing legal models, and innovating through statue and regulation. TeamWork: Leadership for Healthy States—previously known as the Excellence in State Public Health Law Program (ESPHL)—strengthens relationships within and across branches of government, builds understanding of population health issues, and opens channels of communication and problem-solving that can be used to address future population health challenges.

Over the course of the year-long program, teams will come together to address health challenges that are priorities in their respective state. The chief objectives of TeamWork in 2015-16 are (1) creating robust relationships among health officials, their legal counsel, and policy makers within states; (2) fostering collaborations and trust across branches of state government and partisan divides; and (3) encouraging innovative approaches to population health policy. TeamWork will provide participants with access to best practices and technical assistance resources, consultants, and a peer network that will last beyond the 2015-16 program. TeamWork is not intended to support the passage of any specific policy or legislation.

Evidence confirms that our greatest health challenges are complex and linked to multiple sectors in our society. Consequently, effective policy development that fosters good health and wellbeing requires all sectors to work together across traditional divides. TeamWork focuses on a flexible, collaborative approach to public policy development that systematically takes into account the health implications of policy decisions in areas not traditionally focused on health, such as education, transportation, and housing. This approach, often known as Health In All Policies, builds a team of diverse governmental partners and stakeholders to ensure that health consequences are considered when evaluating policy parameters, including design, siting, and funding. It aims to improve the accountability of policymakers for health impacts at all levels and types of policymaking, from policy development and implementation to enforcement and the evaluation of returns on investment.

The TeamWork Advisory Committee includes Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association; Hon. James Douglas, Executive in Residence at Middlebury College and former Governor of Vermont; Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Health; and Nick Macchione, Director of the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency; Gov. Beverly Perdue, former Governor of North Carolina; and Mary Selecky, former Washington State Secretary of Health. Carmen Hooker Odom, former President of the Milbank Memorial Fund, serves as TeamWork’s Public Health Expert Consultant. Peer mentors from the 2013-2014 ESPHL Program will be announced in July. Other technical assistance resources will include ASTHO, APHA and the Network for Public Health Law.


How are teams selected?

Teams are selected by Aspen Institute Justice & Society program staff in consultation with the TeamWork Public Health Expert Consultant and members of the Advisory Committee. It is a competitive process. We will evaluate multiple factors in assessing an application’s strength, including the specificity of the project, the feasibility of making meaningful progress in the cohort timeframe, the degree to which it engages team members from each branch or government or agency described in the application, and whether there are factors which could prevent completion of the commitment (the possibility of turnover of some members is not a bar, as long as continuity of leadership is provided within the team). Because the team projects should emphasize interagency collaboration, we will give strong preference to teams that include a high-level official of a second state agency. If teams do not include a high-level official of a second state agency, justification will be required.

Who selects the project focus for the Team?

Each team, under the leadership of the Team Leader, selects its own project topic. The Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program does not pre-select topics or projected outcomes. Each state may approach Health In All Policies differently, and set different benchmarks to define success. No particular topic will be favored. States must indicate why the chosen topic is a priority and why a Health In All Policies approach makes sense for addressing this topic.

Can the project focus on health care delivery, for example, a complementary project to our federal State Innovation Model Grant or an ACA implementation project?

Projects must focus on more than healthcare delivery innovations or improvements on population health management. Projects should account for interventions that could improve health outside the doctor’s office, hospital settings, or healthcare delivery setting.  Applicants are encouraged to build on other relevant or complementary activities or programs happening in their state, but not to replace existing activities’ funding streams. Applicants must demonstrate how TeamWork would accelerate progress on complementary efforts.

Are teams that participated in the Excellence in State Public Health Law Program eligible for TeamWork?

States that participated in the 2013-2014 Excellence in State Public Health Law Program – Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington State – are not eligible for TeamWork this round.

How many states will be selected for TeamWork?

Six states will be selected.

How many team members will be on each team?

Each team will have eight members. Of course, you may have other advisors, stakeholders, and staff working on or contributing to the team’s project, but they will not be considered part of the official team.

Must the Team Leader be the State Health Official?

We ask that the Team Leader be the State Health Official. Otherwise, the State Health Official must designate a high-level Department official as Team Leader.

Must there be legislators on the team?

We require at least one legislator on each team, and will give strong preference to teams that have two legislators participating. Ideally, we hope to have each team to have bipartisan balance and include a legislator from both the upper and lower chamber (Nebraska excused from the latter).

Who are the other team members?

Mandatory: the governor’s health policy senior staff member.

Preferred: a Cabinet-level official of a second state agency or his or her high-level designee; a senior advisor to the State Health Commissioner or Secretary; the legislative liaison to the agency responsible for population health; the legal counsel for population health or for the second state agency included in the project; and two undesignated individuals who, depending on the project selected, may include a local health official, or the state epidemiologist or a governmental content expert on the team’s chosen topic.

Because the team projects should emphasize interagency collaboration, we will give strong preference to teams that include a high-level official of a second state agency.

All team members must be government employees or elected officials. Academics in relevant disciplines, non-government employees, and representatives of stakeholder organizations may not be team members unless they also are government employees or elected officials acting in the latter capacity.

If we are unable to include a Cabinet-level official of another state agency or his or her high-level designee on our team, how can we bring a second agency on board in order to apply?

Although it is not the preferred approach, Team Leaders could include a representative from a subcabinet agency, or from a local government agency—examples include a major school district or a county law enforcement office—in order to create a demonstration project that could eventually inform a statewide initiative.

We are concerned that legislators may not be able to attend all the retreats because of the demands of the legislative session. Is attendance by all team members at all the retreats mandatory?

Attendance at the first retreat, to be held in Aspen, Colorado August 22-24, 2015 is mandatory for all team members. While attendance by all team members at each retreat is highly desirable, we understand that schedule demands may occasionally interfere with a team member’s ability to attend a retreat. We expect teams to have a plan for how they will keep individuals not able to attend a retreat engaged.

What Does TeamWork pay for?

TeamWork covers the cost of airfare, lodgings and meals for each team member to attend the August 2015 retreat in Aspen, a retreat in January 2016 at a location TBD, and a final retreat and graduation in the Washington, DC area in August 2016.  Two team members from each team will be invited to a negotiation workshop in October 2015 at our Wye River (Maryland) campus. We also provide $10,000 in technical assistance funds to each team, and up to another $10,000 to each team in additional technical assistance funds on a discretionary basis.

How can we use technical assistance funds?

TeamWork staff must approve your use of technical assistance funds. Some of the ways you can use technical assistance funding: compensate a project coordinator; produce videos; conduct polls, focus groups or surveys; and underwrite stakeholder meetings or site visits. To facilitate your ability to execute on use of technical assistance funds, in many instances the Aspen Institute may be able to disburse directly to vendors.

What will our team be expected to produce?

You will be asked to produce an approximately three-page case study of your team’s project (with drafts due in advance of the final) by August, 2016. Each team will be asked to produce one media deliverable (such as a blog post for the Aspen Institute website or short news article for local press) related to their project or the Health In All Policies topic they have chosen. You will be expected to brief other cohort members on your progress at retreats. You will also be expected to participate in periodic calls with the TeamWork staff and technical assistance resources, and to hold periodic team meetings in-state. In both 2015 and 2016 you will be given the option of 1) a site visit by two outside observers (Aspen Institute Justice & Society program staff and/or members of the Advisory Committee) to facilitate relationship building or program progress, 2) travel for two team members to Washington, DC for meetings with relevant stakeholders, or 3) a one-day in-state retreat for team members and stakeholders to gather perspectives on possible policy solutions. Each team member will be asked to fill out periodic self-evaluation forms to measure team members’ learning through TeamWork, and there will be key informant interviews conducted by outside consultants that will measure how well TeamWork fosters learning and skills around team-building, health improvement, and professional development.

What is expected of us in terms of the three-page case study at the conclusion of the 2015-2016 TeamWork program?

The Aspen Institute will provide the format for the case study, which will likely include sections such as: Introduction; Evidence; Overlapping Policy Interest Between Health Department and Other Cabinet-Level Agency; Actions, Options & Approaches; and Potential or Actual Outcomes.

What happens after the conclusion of the 2015-2016 TeamWork program?

Upon completion of the program, team members will become TeamWork Fellows, and join a network that began with the 2013-14 Excellence in State Public Health Law program.