Category Archives: NACCHO

Jul 10 2012

Cobe Williams: Violence Interrupter

Cobe Williams Ricardo "Cobe" Williams, CeaseFire

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Cure Violence (formerly called CeaseFire), a program that takes a unique public health approach to stopping gun violence in communities, hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary, The Interrupters, in Los Angeles at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The screening featured a discussion panel including Ricardo “Cobe” Williams, one of the movie’s lead characters and Cure Violence violence interrupter and national trainer; Sheila Regan, director of hospital partnerships for Cure Violence; and Commissioner Oxiris Barbot of the Baltimore City Health Department, where the Cure Violence model was replicated and found to statistically lower either homicides or nonfatal shootings or both in all four of the historically violent neighborhoods in which it worked. Violence interrupters and outreach workers succeeded at cutting homicides by more than half in the Cherry Hill neighborhood.

Cure Violence pursues a singular, relentless focus on stopping shootings and killings. Maintaining that violence spreads fundamentally like a disease, and that it is possible to interrupt the transmission of violence much like a disease by changing the behaviors and norms that drive violent acts, Cure VIolence employs former gang members and ex-offenders who have the unique credibility with community members to effectively get people to rethink the impulse to resolve disputes using guns.

The program, begun in Chicago in 2000 by epidemiologist Dr. Gary Slutkin and funded in part by RWJF, has spread to other cities where violence is an acute health problem, including Baltimore, Md., Crown Heights, N.Y., Kansas City, Mo., and New Orleans, La. At the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting, New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu stated, Violence is a deeply rooted problem that can only be dealt with as a public health epidemic. The Cure Violence model is built on an idea that is exactly right. It is one of many tools that we have to use to get to the problem.”

The Interrupters tells the story of three Cure Violence Chicago “violence interrupters” who work to protect communities from the violence in which they themselves once were involved.

NewPublicHealth caught up with Williams before the Los Angeles conference to ask about his experience as a violence interrupter for Cure Violence. “Before you do anything to intervene, you have to build relationships. That’s when community members open up to you,” says Williams, who at age 11 lost his own father to homicide. “We’re trying to stop people from retaliation, which is often the mindset they grew up with; it’s the mindset I grew up with,” Williams says.

Williams says it’s his job to “mediate the conflict, to put out the fire—to change their mindset and their thinking.” By establishing trust in the community, says Williams, “people will call me when they see a problem going on and I’m able to talk to people on both sides to work it out without shooting and killing. Once you build those relationships, it’s the fathers, the grandmothers, the brothers who start calling us to help work it out,” Williams says.

While Chicago has seen a dramatic increase in homicides this year over last year, Williams says many of those killings have not been in the communities where Cure Violence operates.

The message is simple, even if the work isn’t, says Williams: Violence is not acceptable, and to achieve new social norms that don’t accept violence as a commonplace, tolerable means of behavior, it’s important for everyone to get involved and build the community. “I grew up in a community where if I’m mad at you, all my friends are mad at you. That’s how I was raised. I lost a lot of friends to shootings. I wanted to be part of the solution.”

>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Cure Violence founder Gary Slutkin.

Jul 9 2012

Robert Pestronk Offers a Sneak Preview of NACCHO 2012

Bobby Pestronk Robert Pestronk, NACCHO Executive Director

Local health officials will be meeting in Los Angeles later this week at the NACCHO Annual 2012, the annual meeting of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Key conference topics this year include:

  • Affordable Care Act and its impact on local health departments and service delivery
  • Chronic Disease Prevention and Control
  • Transforming and Supporting the Local Public Health Workforce
  • Building a Disaster Resilient Community
  • Public Health Research

NewPublicHealth will be on the ground conducting speaker and attendee interviews, featuring session coverage and capturing the stories of public health departments across the country. Follow our coverage here.

In advance of the meeting, NewPublicHealth spoke with Robert Pestronk, MPH, executive director of NACCHO.

NewPublicHealth: How difficult is it to cull to the final session list for the meeting this week?

Robert Pestronk: The conference committee has once again done their wonderful job of selecting from among hundreds of potential sessions. I think the tracks selected are in areas that speak to the issues local health departments are confronting. They’re looking at transition into chronic disease prevention and control. They’re looking into and acting in many areas on the policy, system and environment and organizational change spectrum. There are big questions about the local public health department workforce and how that needs to change in light of both the reductions in funding and the increasing emphasis on new areas of work. And certainly, the need to have a resilient community and to have the health department play an important role in planning for disasters. The departments also need to do the best job that can be done to communicate to policymakers, to community members, to governing boards, the case for local health departments. These are timely, essential issues, and those attending the conference will hear from local health department officials and others who are grappling with these issues and coming up with ways to address them successfully.

NPH: Recent public health meetings have addressed the importance of both quantitative and qualitative research to improve public health. Are you seeing that at NACCHO as well?

Robert Pestronk: Both quantitative and qualitative research are becoming increasingly important. On the research side, I think that perhaps not just in the field of public health but in the human services or social services field generally the qualitative research has been seen as a poor step child to the quantitative that has been done at the medical or the research bench, and I think part of what’s happening is we’re coming to understand the importance of both styles and types of research. Researchers are coming to grips with the need for both types and also becoming more sophisticated in terms of the methodologies that they’re using. I think this convergence is a good thing, and I think that the recognition of the importance of both types of research by people and researchers in both areas is a very important development.

NPH: How important will the topic of Affordable Care Act be, now that the Supreme Court has ruled, at this year’s NACCHO meeting?

Robert Pestronk: We do have a couple of sessions on the Affordable Care Act, and I think that there’s going to be a lot of conversation among participants at the meeting about how the Supreme Court’s decision will play out in their state and play out across the country. Certainly, the changes in IRS rules for non-profit hospitals has opened up lines of conversation both at the member organization level as well as in local communities, either opened it up or enhanced that conversation, and I think that Medicaid and the way in which states either adjust or not adjust their programs to limit coverage are going to be conversations because those decisions have implications for the kinds of services that local health departments may need to continue to provide or not.

I think that other areas that will get discussed are the evidence that’s been generated from the funding that has been out there already. It’s going to be necessary to bring those stories forward to communicate why these changes are important for the health of their communities.

NPH: How does the Affordable Care Act help local health departments?

Robert Pestronk: It continues the nation down a road of assuring that people in communities have insurance coverage and have access to healthcare services regardless of whether their place of employment provides that as a benefit. So it will continue the conversation in local health departments across the country about the role that they should or shouldn’t and can or can’t play with respect to clinical care. I think that what we’ve learned is that some health departments will, because of the nature of the clinical resources available in their communities, need to continue to provide these services. I think that local health departments will hope that the expansion in dollars that are available through the Public Health and Prevention Fund continues over the next couple of years and that expansion will result in more opportunities for local health departments to become more active in the policy system in environmental and organizational change area. I think that the resources that are available through the Fund present opportunities for enhanced relationship-building within communities.

NPH: Collaboration is becoming a very important part of improving public health services delivery. Are we seeing both more in terms of recognizing how vital these partnerships can be as well as the actual collaborations at the local health department level?

Robert Pestronk:I think that in most cases local health departments have always been in a collaborative mode. They’ve always known that the resources that they have aren’t big enough and large enough in most communities to make a difference all by themselves. Those who are practicing in local health departments understand that to move the needle; to make a change to create the conditions in which people can be healthy requires collaborations around individual projects and programs as well as collaboration on the vision for healthier communities.

NPH: Shared services is also a topic of current important for local health departments—can you talk about its importance for local health departments?

Robert Pestronk: We have some sessions on that topic. I think that people will be interested in it. In some parts of the country, local health department districts or regions or two or more counties or communities have long been joined despite a law which might allow all individual counties or communities to have a local health department. And it’s not just shared services between local health departments; I think the conversations are underway about whether health departments are helped by collaboration or shared service arrangements with other service providers in communities as well. It’s the recognition that shared services among the public and private and non-profit sectors within a community are aimed at common goals. That includes between the media and local health departments, between the clergy and the local health departments, between businesses and local health departments—the notion of everybody on the same team rowing in the same direction, having the same vision for the community and sharing aspects of their resources with one another because some members or organizations in a community have expertise that others don’t. By combining those different assets with one another, health is more likely.

NPH: What’s your hope this year for some of the hallway conversations among meeting attendees?

Robert Pestronk: One of the major outcomes that we seek from the Annual Meeting each year is to have presented an opportunity where people around the country who face similar challenges can talk with one another about the work that they are doing and to gain enthusiasm and support and recognize the importance of persistence around difficult issues, and to recognize the importance of partnerships. It’s to give people opportunities to see what others are doing and to see how their success or what they’ve learned from failure can be adapted within their own communities. I think at a 10,000 foot level people may be grappling with the same kinds of issues. Here they can attend sessions that are of practical interest to them that will open up their eyes to the ways in which their peers are addressing an issue or have confronted an issue which they themselves may confront.

That was always as a local health department practitioner why I valued the NACCHO Annual Meeting so much was because it was a source of stimulation for me, it introduced me to my peers around the country. I always discovered that there was somebody doing something better than I or who had attempted to do something that I was interested in doing and the conference provided an opportunity for me to learn from them both there and then to establish a personal relationship with them so that if later I called them on the phone they would have a face to attach to the person on the other end of the line.

NPH: The intersection of public health and health care is at a critical juncture. What’s ahead at NACCHO on this issue?

Robert Pestronk: I think that one of the things that we’re going to be focusing on at NACCHO over the next year is what does the health department of the future look like? And clearly, again, based upon the resources that individual communities have this intersection between the clinical domain and the governmental public health practice domain is going to be an important conversation. I think that it’s going to play out differently in different communities because the resources that are available are different in different communities. I don’t think there’s going to be a one size fits all. I don’t think we’re close to having a national system in which these two separate domains are appropriately and proportionately resourced and appropriately and genuinely linked together in the ways that they might be. I think that we’re going to be on a long road in that direction over time.

NPH: Any sessions in particular you’d like to note?

Robert Pestronk: That’s like picking a favorite child! I’d say look carefully at the program ahead of time, pick sessions that are in areas that are familiar and pick sessions that are in areas that one knows nothing about because that’s a way of both discovering what’s immediately useful in terms of one’s own work in the community and it’s also useful in the long term because it often is the case that although one isn’t confronting a particular challenge at this time, one very well may be confronting it soon after. And also take time to have informal conversation with others because it’s often in that space where very interesting observations and relationships are made and joined, and those are ones that can last a lifetime.

>>Follow NewPublicHealth coverage of NACCHO Annual 2012.

Jun 27 2012

NACCHO Annual 2012: Get Ready for L.A.!


NewPublicHealth will be once again be covering the upcoming NACCHO Annual 2012 conference, providing the latest conference news and in­-depth interviews with conference speakers, including Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, MA, MBA, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, as well as other key leaders and decision makers, as well as profiles of on-the-ground success stories. The conference will take place July 11 through 13, and this year is headed to Los Angeles, Calif.

We will also be collecting stories on how local health departments are forging innovative new partnerships across sectors and across communities to meet shared goals and leverage resources. One area we’ll be exploring – in connection with a screening of The Interrupters taking place at the meeting, on July 11 at 7 p.m. – is the issue of violence prevention and what public health departments are doing to reduce violence in communities. Also new this year – we'll be on the lookout for opportunities to showcase innovative public health efforts in the greater Los Angeles County area.

Some questions to get you started:

  • What's the most creative, outside-the-box partner you've engaged with from a sector beyond public health? What did they add to the conversation and your joint efforts?
  • Who do you see as the most critical partners for public health?
  • Who do you see as the partners with the most untapped potential?
  • What successes have you achieved as a result of partnerships?
  • What successes have you had specifically in violence prevention, and who were your partners?

>>In the coming weeks, follow coverage of NACCHO Annual 2012 and tell us about your critical partners for success.

>>Add YOUR ideas and stories by adding them to the comments below, visiting us at booth #7, or joining the conversation on Twitter by messaging @RWJF_PubHealth (don't forget the conference hashtag, #NA12).

Mar 23 2012

Emergency Preparedness: A Blended Emphasis on Collaboration

Public health and health care preparedness experts met together at the 2012 Joint Preparedness Conference, where a major focus was greater collaboration between agencies and partners throughout the federal government to achieve maximum public benefit. The conference was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR) and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

Both offices award annual preparedness grants to all fifty states, several large cities and all U.S. territories, but previously required grantees to apply and report separately. The conference, which also included representatives from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and other partners, brought the experts from both funding streams into the same room along with the project managers who handle both health care and public health.

“The emphasis is on aligning the efforts between public health and heath care,” says Steven F. Boedigheimer, CDC Deputy Director of OPHPR’s Division of State and Local Readiness, who led the conference.

Read more

Mar 7 2012

Contagion: Movie Screenwriter and Scientific Consultant Chat With NACCHO

file Scott Burns, Ian Lipkin

In the latest podcast from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Contagion screenwriter Scott Z. Burns answers questions about the fact or fiction of the movie alongside the film's scientific consultant and Director of the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University, Dr. Ian Lipkin. Read an excerpt of the podcast transcript below, and listen to the full podcast on the NACCHO website.

>>Related: Read our earlier Q&A with Barbara Reynolds, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Crisis Communication Senior Advisor in the Office of the Director, about the CDC’s role in the movie and crisis communication.

NACCHO: Scott, you’re an expert story-teller, which is something we can learn a lot from in public health. What was so compelling about this public health story for you?

Scott Burns: The most compelling part of this for me was it was the kind of story that kept presenting us with forks in the road. Ian was amazing for me to work with. At the beginning, he said the one thing we now know about nature is almost anything is possible. It was the kind of story where it kept opening up in new ways and new directions in ways that were almost fractal. Every time you made a choice, you got a whole new set of problems to consider and roads to go down.

Read more

Feb 24 2012

Preparedness Summit: American Red Cross Community Resilience Pilot Program

The American Red Cross Community Resilience Pilot program focuses on building community resilience before a disaster, by enhancing community collective action around preparedness. Jacqueline Yannacci, program manager of community resilience for the Red Cross, spoke about the project at this week’s Public Health Preparedness Summit.

The Red Cross has implemented the community resilience pilot project in five sites—New Orleans, South Mississippi, Miami, Denver and San Francisco. The goal of the pilot is to test the Red Cross’ community engagement strategy. “We typically do a lot of awareness and education around preparedness,” says Yannacci. “But, in the emergency management field the idea of resilience is kind of new, and we wanted to take a look at what this idea of resilience meant for how we work in the community.”

Yannacci, who started her career at the Red Cross with the hurricane recovery program that worked in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, says she saw in that work that it’s not only important to be prepared for the immediate response, but that recovery is a critical part of the disaster cycle. “We asked: what could we do prior to a disaster happening to help increase the community’s ability to bounce back faster?”

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Feb 22 2012

Preparedness Summit: A Community Comes Together in Joplin

Joplin Clean up crew in Joplin following a destructive and deadly F5 tornado May 22, 2011

It’s no surprise that a plenary session at this week’s Public Health Preparedness Summit is devoted to the devastating tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., last spring. Late in the afternoon on May 22, 2011, a multiple vortex tornado struck Joplin, a city of about 50,000 people. The tornado and its aftermath left 161 dead and more than 900 injured along with the destruction of thousands of homes, businesses, schools, and one of the community's major healthcare facilities, St. John's Medical Center. Public health, health care, and community-based agencies immediately responded to begin planning for the short-, mid-, and long-term needs of that community.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Melissa Friel, Director of the Center for Emergency Response and Terrorism at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, who is a leader in the ongoing recovery effort and a presenter at the Summit.

NewPublicHealth: What are you most proud of about the response to the tornado?

Melissa Friel: It turned out to be the single deadliest tornado in the history of the United States, 162 individuals lost their lives and 713 patients were sent to 42 hospitals in four states requiring quite a robust emergency medical and an emergency response effort.

We partnered in the state robustly and well together, even though tactical communication was a challenge because cell phone towers were down. So we learned a lot of lessons, but we learned really well together and the local emergency staff did a remarkable job. It’s our job at the state level to support their efforts and to be able to provide any assistance that they can’t, and at the state level we turn to the federal system for any assets the state can’t provide. It was really a remarkable effort on behalf of the local, the state and the federal response.

NPH: What are some of the lessons learned?

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Feb 21 2012

Social Media During Disasters: NewPublicHealth Q&A With CDC's Mark Keim

Keim Mark Keim, CDC National Center for Environmental Health

Tomorrow at the 2012 Preparedness Summit, Mark Keim, MD, Senior Science Advisor in the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be a presenter at a session called, "Emergent Use of Social Media: A New Age of Opportunity for Disaster Resilience."

The session focuses on the growing role of social media in disaster management. NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Keim about his work.

NewPublicHealth: What is the focus of your presentation?

Mark Keim: The talk is based on an article that I published in 2010 when we were starting to notice that social media was potentially having an impact on disaster systems, and so this is really a systems-based approach of how social media differs from traditional media in its applications in disaster management. I also look at the organizational structure of how information is passed is different in social media as compared to how we normally pass it in disasters. It’s really taking a more systems-based approach to addressing these fundamental issues of how we can best utilize social media.

NPH: How does that approach benefit the response in the disaster?

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Feb 20 2012

Regroup, Refocus, Refresh: 2012 Public Health Preparedness Summit

Herrmann Jack Herrmann, NACCHO

The 2012 Public Health Preparedness Summit begins tomorrow in Anaheim, Calif. A key focus of the meeting is a close look at preparedness as federal funds diminish and local, state, tribal, and territorial health departments in some cases find themselves faced with the decision to eliminate critical preparedness activities.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Jack Herrmann, Senior Adviser and Chief of the National Association of County and City Health Officials Public Health Preparedness Programs and chair of the summit.

>>Follow NewPublicHealth coverage of the Public Health Preparedness Summit.

NewPublicHealth: What is critically important at this year’s Summit?

Jack Herrmann: I think what’s critically important is that this year’s theme will focus on the impact of budget cuts and other challenges that local and state public health professionals in the area of preparedness have had to deal with over the last year or so. And so, many of the sessions will be looking at tools and resources and other information to help them consider how to address and overcome some of these challenges.

NPH: What are ways that you’ve seen communities do that?

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Feb 14 2012

Public Health Preparedness Summit


During the past 10 years, public health professionals have taken significant measures to build and sustain the public health of local health departments and the national preparedness infrastructure to plan for and respond to disasters and other emergencies. Lessons learned after the events of September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, have led to increased federal funding and improved communications and community resiliency, larger and better-prepared staff at all levels, greater surge capacity, among other accomplishments in preparedness.

However, economic challenges and shifting priorities have resulted in serious gaps in public health preparedness at every level. This makes showcasing the value of preparedness more critical than ever.

On February 21-24, the Public Health Preparedness Summit 2012 will bring together public health professionals from across the country to identify priorities and gaps and share tools and best practices for preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters and other public health emergencies. NewPublicHealth will serve as the platform for news from the event and in­-depth interviews with key leaders including Jack Herrmann, MSEd., NCC, LMHC, Sr. Advisor and Chief of the Public Health Preparedness Program at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and other important stakeholders and decision makers.

In addition to following our coverage, we invite those of you who are involved in public health preparedness and response to share your stories about new efforts that are making a difference in your community. Here are a couple of questions to get you started:

  • What is a preparedness project or partnership that shows particular promise in your community?
  • How are you maximizing your resources to meet all of your preparedness responsibilities?

>>In the coming weeks, follow NewPublicHealth coverage of the Public Health Preparedness Summit.

>>Share your public health preparedness story in the comments below.