Engaging Leaders in Advocacy for Public Health System Improvement Through Accreditation and Quality Improvement

Survive and Thrive: Roadmap for New Local Health Officials

Dates of Program: December 2006 to September 2014

Description: In 2005, more than a third of the nation's 2,217 local health officials had held their positions for two years or less. These new officials faced complex responsibilities that their predecessors had not. Yet no formal certification or training program existed for them. NACCHO worked with other national organizations to enable local health directors to develop five core competencies—allowing themselves and their departments to “survive and thrive” and bolster public health.

“When NACCHO offered an orientation for new health officials at one annual meeting, attendees poured out into hallways, clamoring for more.”—Pamela Russo, MD, MPH, senior program officer, RWJF

Key Results/Findings

  • NACCHO developed and implemented Survive and Thrive, a 12-month, 100-hour training program for new local health officials. More than 200 officials participated in the program from 2008 to 2013, and 185 (89%) completed it.

  • NACCHO modified Survive and Thrive significantly during that period to expand its reach and reduce its costs, based on input from participants.

  • Experience with Survive and Thrive spurred NACCHO to create the online NACCHO University in 2013, to deliver comprehensive educational resources and training to local public health officials at all levels.

  • Survive and Thrive had a positive impact on local health officers and their departments, according to evaluators from the Group Health Research Institute’s Center for Community Health and Evaluation.

  • In-person and field experiences that allowed fellows to learn from experienced practitioners and peers were the most useful aspects of the program.

“You not only learn what others are doing, you learn what you’re not doing. The program really expanded my ideas about what a health department can do.”—Survive and Thrive fellow

“I know I always had this in me, but I don’t know if it all would have come together quite so well without Survive and Thrive.”—Kristi Aklestad, RN, Toole County, Mont.

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"Survive and Thrive" health official training program builds the capacity of hundreds of new leaders.

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300 new local health officials per year need training and coaching to "survive and thrive" as leaders.