151: Collaboration – Public Health Week

Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s State Health Officer, explains the importance of collaboration and resilience in public health; ASTHO considers two states with children’s cabinets in a new blog article now online; and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle...

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Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s State Health Officer, explains the importance of collaboration and resilience in public health; ASTHO considers two states with children’s cabinets in a new blog article now online; and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky answers questions from high school students, including one about building an inclusive and encouraging community for young females interested in STEM careers.

APHA Webpage: National Public Health Week

ASTHO Blog Article: ASTHO Launches Resiliency Program to Support Public Health Workforce

ASTHO Blog Article: Building Capacity and Dedicating Field Staff to Address Substance Use Disorders During COVID-19

ASTHO Blog Article: Children’s Cabinets in Minnesota and Iowa Share Successes and Challenges

ASTHO Blog Article: Leadership Trailblazer Spotlight – CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, April 6th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


It's day three of National Public Health Week. In today's morning conversation, we explore the importance of collaboration and resilience with Louisiana state health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter.

Thinking about collaboration in public health, are we working together more or less because of the pandemic?


We're certainly working together more. This is a skillset that public health has traditionally been strong in—bringing partners to the table and acting collaboratively. And the challenges of the past two years have only necessitated that more. I think that's been a hallmark of the pandemic response.


How does public health benefit when everyone is on the same page?


You know, it's oftentimes the only way for public health to get things done. Traditionally, we're under-resourced, and so the only way we can move an agenda is by facilitation, linkage, and leverage, and bringing people to the table, finding common ground, pushing an agenda of health.

You know, I mean, COVID is different—we have a lot more resources to work with—but in the pre-COVID days, these really were the main tools that public health used to push forward the health agenda.


Do you see that becoming more important as we move forward out of the pandemic? Will we need to reach back and rely more on some of those tools in the future?


Yeah, no question, and one of the reasons for that is divisions have emerged during the pandemic. There's no question about that—things are divided, things are politicized.

We can all come together around the ideals of health and promotion, that people should live healthy lives. I think it's time for us to refocus the conversation around that and build back some of the collaborative nature that perhaps has been tested during the past couple of years.


What do you think might be some of the best ways to do that? Do you have any suggestions for us?


Well, I think it starts with identifying common ideals—everyone wants to live healthy, everyone wants to do what we can to minimize human suffering. And, you know, that's the essence of what drove various decisions during COVID, although there's been a fair amount of disagreements about that. But we can refocus the conversation around those ideals and start patching up some of the divisions that have emerged.


The pandemic has also tested our resilience in so many different ways. How are we doing there?


We're doing excellent, actually. And I think we need to recognize that this has been a one-in-a-century event. It's been a generational defining event. It's obviously not over, but there's a sense that we've been through the worst of it. So, we need to acknowledge that.

It's been a huge test of our resilience and, as a community, we've done extraordinarily well. That's not to say that there aren't things that we need to focus on, and there are a lot—just last week, the CDC put out a report on the mental health state of high school students, and it's fallen. We need to recognize these issues that have emerged and focused on them, not bury them under the carpet. But in the large sense, give ourselves credit for what we've been through and overcome the past two years.


How do you plan to tackle resilience there in Louisiana in the next year to two years? What's your plan?


I'll tell you at the moment, it's starting with our own team because we need to be good messengers of this. And our team has been tested, certainly, like every public health team across the country. And we're making sure that people are taking care of themselves and then their families.

Moving on beyond that, we don't plan to hide any of the mental health or other resilience issues that have emerged. We have to call them exactly how we see them, make sure we identify what the issue is, and then start building coalitions that can address it.


Tomorrow, Dr. Denise Johnson from Pennsylvania pays a visit to explain why public health is a human right. You don't want to miss it.


Some states have boards, commissions, or councils that focus on child and family health, but how do they work and are they successful? ASTHO has a new blog article exploring these and other questions. The article considers two states that have Children's Cabinets. Read about the experience in Minnesota and Iowa using the link in the show notes.


Finally today, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is in ASTHO's Leadership Trailblazer Spotlight this week. Recently, she took time to answer questions from a group of high school students. Here's how she responds to a question about building an inclusive and encouraging community for young females interested in STEM careers.


First, we need to open the doors and to make sure that there are plentiful opportunities for girls and women to step into the field.

And then second of all, we need to make sure that women and girls are not intimidated to come forward. I can tell you many, many times in my career where I was like, "Oh my goodness, I'm not going to step into that," or, "I'm not going to be on that podium, or, "Look at that audience!"

But if you let those intimidate you, then you never lean in. And I have actually told my mentees is that the most important thing you need to do when you're intimidated as blow it out of the park, and just make sure you give the best talk ever, and be prepared.


You can watch Dr. Walensky video using the link in the show notes.


Before we go, we want to remind you to leave us a rating and a review. Also, if you follow the show, you'll never miss a single report. You can do all of this on the channel you're listening to right now.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We are back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Joseph Kanter MD MPH

State Health Officer, Louisiana Department of Health