Dr. Paul Halverson on Leading State and Local Public Health Agencies

Paul Halverson SHO leadership

This series of video interviews with public health leaders is related to topics discussed in columns in the JPHMP series, The Management Moment. These brief interviews provide tips on putting into practice information from these columns.

In this video, produced by the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health SHO-Case Study, Dr. Hugh Tilson spoke with Dr. Paul Halverson about the qualities that contribute to effective state health official (SHO) leadership. 

Dr. Halverson is the founding dean of the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health in Indianapolis. He joined Indiana University after having served as the state health officer and director of the Arkansas Department of Health. Prior to his appointment as State Health Officer, Dr. Halverson served in senior management roles at the CDC.

One of the many challenges Dr. Halverson tackled as the State Health Officer for the Arkansas Department of Health was demonstrating to the governor and legislature the importance of public health as its own agency. Here he explains his individual experience as a health leader.

A Few Takeaways from the Interview:

  • Success as a state health officer requires trying to get a sense of how people in a community live and to understand the problems they face in order to intervene in ways that create the conditions in which they can become and stay healthy.
  • Elements of success requires: 1) A strong foundation of public health science, 2) an understanding of how communities work, 3) a solid understanding of management and leadership, and 4) hope and enthusiasm that things can get better.
  • Public health’s greatest challenge is to convince others of the importance of making political changes that are incontrovertibly necessary, which will lead to improved policies that have the greatest likelihood of improving the health of the population.

Read other posts in this series:

Author Profile

Dr. Ed Baker
Dr. Edward L. Baker, currently serves as Adjunct Professor at UNC, Harvard and Indiana University schools of public health  Previously, he served as Director of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at UNC, Assistant Surgeon General in the U.S. Public Health Service, Director of CDC’s Public Heath Practice Program Office, Deputy Director of NIOSH, and Associate Professor of Occupational Health at Harvard.