Oct. 18, 2018
The Kresge Foundation’s Emerging Leaders in Public Health (ELPH) initiative welcomed Dan Heath, New York Times bestselling author and professor at Duke University, and Kathryn Lawler, the first executive director for the Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI), to share their expertise with public health leaders from local health departments across the country. The talks were part of the ELPH Cohort II Leadership Development Conference taking place Oct. 15-17 at the Rizzo Conference Center in Chapel Hill.
The ELPH initiative, which launched in 2014 and recently welcomed a third cohort, provides local public health department leaders with the opportunity to advance innovative roles and models that position their agencies to meet the changing health needs of their communities. Health directors and an accompanying co-leader embark on an action-oriented experience where they receive leadership development training, coaching and funding to transform their agency for the future. The leaders are supported by the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, which serves as the national program office (NPO) for the initiative.
Heath, a senior fellow at The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, shared strategies to lead and develop a culture that embraces change. His discussion pulled from principles in his bestselling book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, which studies the conflict between rational and emotional thought and how overcoming this tension can lead to dramatic change. He advised the ELPH leaders that moving people from path A to B requires clarity for their “rational” side, motivation for their “emotional” side and the removal of obstacles to help them move forward on the path. He challenged the leadership teams to “simply make it a little bit easier for people to change.”
Bringing experience as a public health practitioner, Lawler discussed strategies to establish and finance long-term population health goals. Named the first executive director in 2017, Lawler leads ARCHI’s 28-year strategic plan to improve the overall health of metro Atlanta residents through a collective impact approach. She shared the importance of cross-sector collaboration, long-term planning and sustainable financing mechanisms to achieve improved population health outcomes in Atlanta and the nation.
During the conference, ELPH Cohort II leadership teams held panel discussions to share how their agencies have transformed through their work in the program. ELPH Project Director Janet Suttie summarized a few of the big picture lessons learned by the teams, as well as the national program office, over the twelve-month experience:
- Public Health leaders benefit from using the adaptive leadership practice of spending time ‘on the dance floor,’ conducting the work of public health, and then getting up ‘onto the balcony’ overlooking the dance floor — taking the time to reflect, process and consider if the work being done is going in the right direction.
- Advancing change is more likely to be successful if public health leaders can connect their internal staff and external stakeholders to a feeling or emotion that motivates them to make the change rather than just presenting information that justifies the transformation.
- Engaging cross-sector partners to take a systems-level approach is a key strategy to successfully improve population health outcomes.
The event was the final convening for Cohort II, whose 40 leaders will now continue to advance transformative work in their agencies and communities. To summarize the experience, one ELPH participant shared, “I appreciate the tremendous effort and opportunity provided by the NPO and Kresge. This was the best executive-level leadership learning experience of my career.”
To learn more about the Kresge ELPH initiative, visit https://kresge.org/elph.