State Health Leadership Initiative

Dates of the Program: September 1998 through March 2016

Description: Being a state (or territorial) health official is a highly demanding government job. The State Health Leadership Initiative provides training, mentoring, and other support tailored to the needs of each new state health official in order to build leadership capacity and make state public health systems more effective.

“Many new state health officials come to the job lacking critical skills for success. It’s not enough to know health or management. The stumbling blocks are often political, public relations or government/bureaucracy.”–Susan Gerard, a former state health official in Arizona.

Program components include a five-day intensive leadership program led by the Harvard Kennedy School, two other training and networking meetings, mentoring, and a year-long health policy academy that brings state health decision-makers together around policy challenges.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) administers the State Health Leadership Initiative in partnership with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the National Governors Association.

Key Results

  • Since the program launched in 1999, some 215 state health officials have improved their ability to lead their health departments by participating in the State Health Leadership Initiative (as of March 2014).

  • The State Health Leadership Initiative has strengthened ASTHO and increased its role in public health policy nationally.

  • Most former state health officials use the skills they built while participating in the State Health Leadership Initiative in other public health-related leadership positions.

  • State health officials have raised their visibility among the governor’s senior staff and enhanced their reputation as health experts through the National Governors Association’s health policy academy.

“The State Health Leadership Initiative raises the game of our membership much more quickly than would otherwise happen.”—Paul Jarris, ASTHO’s executive director