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The Future of the Public’s Health in the 21st Century
tion. Although many of these skills are innate for most professionals and other leaders, they need constant refinement and honing.
CDC has pioneered the development and funding of a national Public Health Leadership Institute, and in the intervening dozen years, more than 500 leaders in public health have been exposed to leadership training and skill building (described in more detail in the Academia chapter). Furthermore, a similar network of State and Regional Public Health Leadership Institutes has been funded and, over time, has developed the capacity to work collaboratively through a national network, which permits institutes to benchmark and share best practices and continue the process of learning needed to help with state-of-the art curriculum and educational training efforts. Equally notable has been the development of the Management Academy for Public Health, a joint effort of the major public health philanthropies. Although effort is still at an early stage, this academy has already generated graduates who work hand in glove with senior leadership in public health organizations. Furthermore, the Turning Point Initiative devotes efforts to increasing collaborative leadership across all sectors and at all levels (Larson et al., 2002)
Another key to leadership is continuity in office long enough to exert the leadership and to provide the institutional memory to defend public health agencies and the public health sector from the political winds of the moment. Yet, the committee finds there has been great difficulty in recruiting, developing, and retaining the leaders so vital to the job.
A state health official’s term, if that official is a political appointee, is tied to the governor’s term. Health officials must work with legislators who operate on 2-year terms. Given that the average tenure of a state health officer is relatively short (an average of 3.9 years and a median of 2.9 years) (ASTHO, 2002), many state health officials find it difficult to create longer-term plans for achieving health goals on shorter-term time frames (Meit, 2001). Additionally, because state health officers report to many governing bodies, they generally have less direct access to policy makers, and state health officials must prioritize the issues that they think deserve the most attention (Meit, 2001). Political factors at the state level can also have a significant impact on the abilities of public health leadership to influence policy. To address the specific issues of discontinuity occasioned by the rapid turnover, particularly of state health officials, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has funded a unique State Health Leadership Initiative administered by the National Governors Association to immerse newly appointed officials in a curriculum for political leadership and provide a network of resources and mentors.
Governmental public health leadership is a critical component of the infrastructure that must be strengthened, supported, and held accountable by all of the partners of the public health system and the community at