Gulf Region Health Outreach Program (GRHOP) Stands Out as an Outlier in Public Health Funding Support — Make Your Program One Too!
by Leslie M. Beitsch, MD, JD
In a moment of profound reflection, following a slow deep breath, exhaled gently but completely, ask yourself the last time you recall a public health program receiving funding support of $105 million? Odds are that even after a Google search, a reasonable public health practitioner is likely to conclude never, or not in my lifetime. The cynical among us might even ask if this query is some sort of cruel joke or hoax. That is precisely what makes the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program (GRHOP) stand out as such an outlier. Showcased in the November/December JPHMP supplement, highlighted are the public health projects conducted in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida as a consequence of the medical benefits class action litigation settlement associated with the catastrophic Deep Water Horizon oil spill.
GRHOP has addressed long-standing health issues in 17 Gulf coastal counties adversely affected by previous disasters great and small, and was specifically designed to bolster community resilience. A rare product of the cooperation between BP and class action plaintiff attorneys, GRHOP was conceptualized as a programmatic approach to tackle systemic deficiencies in a legal award system built to redress harms suffered by individuals while ignoring the larger harms to the community itself. In short, a perfect mission for public health.
Take home lessons from GRHOP are plentiful. Among them is the reminder to never allow a perfectly formed disaster to be wasted—public health needs to be at the table reinforced by the awareness we are well positioned to be the systems change agent—uniquely possessing the ability to make a lasting and sustainable impact on the community capacity to withstand brutal assaults of nature or mankind. Emphatically stated, one potential legacy of GRHOP is the reminder that large public health set asides should be part of any massive legal settlement negotiation. Like the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, as with the Deepwater Horizon, there is a clearly defined role for public health, one only we can fulfill.
About the Author
Leslie M. Beitsch, MD, JD, joined the faculty of the Florida State University College of Medicine in November 2003 as Professor of Health Policy and Director of the Center for Medicine and Public Health. He is currently serving as chair of the university’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine. [Full bio]