Sep 2019: The Positive Influence of Local Public Health Agencies on the Populations They Serve

by Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH

September 2019 FTE

Our September/October issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice illustrates the positive influence of local public health agencies on the populations they serve. Mazzucca and colleagues write that fostering evidence-based decision making (EBDM) within local health determinants is crucial to translating research to prevent public health practice into public health practice to prevent chronic disease. This study identified six factors which had a positive relationship with the number of evidence-based interventions delivered. September 2019 FTE

Bernstein et al in their article “Rationale and Design of Distance-Based Training to Persuade Local Health Department Employees That Addressing Social Determinants is Their Job, Too” assert that public health workers in local health departments (LHDs) are in a unique position to address the social determinants of health (SDH). They recommend that LHDs use a transformative approach to improve SDH and advance health equity. This approach would expand the efforts of public health workers to include addressing structural influences on health and engaging new partners. According to the authors, public health workers in local health departments rate skills needed to address social determinants among their top training needs. The article outlines an innovative approach to training using a case study method. This 45-minute online training module, Strategies to Advance Health Equity: How Health Departments Can Promote Living Wages,” is designed to train public health practitioners how to address social determinants.

Lemon and colleagues provide an example of addressing social determinants in their article, which develops a core set of capabilities and tasks for local health departments use to promote active transportation. They employed a panel of 58 individuals with expertise in local transportation and policy processes, including cross-sector collaboration with public health in an effort to identify factors or capabilities encouraging active transportation. Participants included disciplines of land-use planning, transportation, public works, public health, municipal administration, and active transportation advocacy at the local and state level. September 2019 FTE

Opportunities to Improve Employee Satisfaction Within State and Local Public Health Agencies,” authored by Wisniewski et al, finds that although  the majority of public health workers are satisfied with their jobs, it is critical to understand the degree to which they are satisfied and identify factors related to dissatisfaction. Data was used from the 2014 Public Health Workforce Needs and Interests Survey. The most commonly identified themes were salary, job security, and career advancement. The authors see their finding as a call for action for leaders of health departments, governors, and those at the federal level to address public health workforce retention and recruitment issues.

Two articles in this issue focus on the role of local boards of health. Shah and colleagues research the linkages between LHDs and health care and other community organizations. They find that these linkages could be further maximized, particularly considering the high proportion of local board of health members that are health care professions. Nguyen et al, in their article “Factors Associated with Continuous Improvement by Local Boards of Health,” found there was room for improvement in the effectiveness of these governing bodies.     

Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University. Previously, he was chair of this Department. He has served as the Commissioner of Health and Secretary for Human Services of Vermont, Director of Health Services for Arizona, and Director of the Office of Public Health for New York State. Previous academic positions include Professor and Director of the Preventive Medicine Program for SUNY Upstate Medical University, Professor and Chair of Epidemiology at the University of Albany School of Public Health, and Clinical Professor and Director of the Teaching Program in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Vermont, College of Medicine. [Full bio]