March 25, 2024

Lisa Macon Harrison

Lisa Macon Harrison

Lisa Macon Harrison, MPH, heath director for Granville Vance Public Health (GVPH) and alumna of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, was presented with the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors’ (NCALHD) Health Director of the Year Award on March 13 at their annual awards ceremony luncheon. Harrison was selected based on her decade-plus commitment to leading GVPH and lifting the work, value and voice of health departments locally, statewide and at the national level.

Quintana Stewart, president of NCALHD, presented the award to Harrison and stated, “Lisa is a leader not only for her health department but also for several local health departments in North Carolina and across the United States, as she has shared their stories and passion while advocating for needed resources to support their dedication to improving the lives of our neighbors.”

The NCALHD, through its Education and Awards Committee, requests nominations each fall from local health directors, local and state public health workers, the local board of health members, elected officials, and local citizens. The Committee reviews nominees’ involvement, leadership and achievements in public health at the local level, in N.C. and nationally, as well as achievements in their community (church, civic clubs and other involvement) to select an annual recipient.

Harrison received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree from the Gillings School in 1996, followed by her Master of Public Health degree in 2006. Her upbringing in Cullowhee and family ties in Vance County shaped both her career and passion for rural N.C. As she grew professionally, Harrsion became a leader and champion for rural communities throughout our state and the nation, while not losing sight of the importance of public health in all communities.

During her twelve years at GVPH, Harrison has created, led and supported a multitude of public health service enhancements and expansions. In her time as a health director, she has worked tirelessly to increase funding to put services in place that matter to the community and create a better place to live, work and learn. Under her leadership, GVPH’s budget has increased by 129% — a testament to her advocacy with legislators locally and statewide as well as her gift as a grant writer.

Harrison has also ensured that GVPH functions as a foundational safety net provider for the community. Since 2016, GVPH has offered comprehensive primary care services to ensure whole-person care, including preventive services for obesity, diabetes, hypertension and medical nutrition therapy.

Since 2015, under Harrison’s direction, GVPH has secured more than $6 million in grant funding to combat mental health and substance use disorder challenges in Granville and Vance counties. GVPH was the first health department in N.C. to offer medication assisted treatment, building on the success of the primary care services model to provide regular visits with a health care provider and linking individuals to behavioral health care and support resources. As a result, the National Association of Counties selected GVPH for a peer exchange site visit in April 2023, bringing leaders from across the U.S. to the rural communities of Granville and Vance.

In addition, GVPH has also implemented, supported, or led partnerships aimed at reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails along with thirty agencies representing law enforcement, jail administration, public health agencies, EMS, social work agencies, behavioral health agencies and community through the Stepping Up program. Harrison also brought together organizations and community members to help kids stay healthy through the Working on Wellness Coalition, which implements and evaluates the impact of evidence-based interventions focused on nutrition, physical activity and prevention of chronic disease to improve child health and well-being in Granville and Vance counties.

In 2023, Harrison and GVPH collaborated with the Gillings School to launch the first Gillings School Public Health Communications Fellowship, supported by federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, which was awarded to Harrison in her primary role with GVPH and representative for all seven local health departments within North Carolina’s Region 7.

Harrison’s influence and efforts do not end within her county lines, as she has proven herself to be an unwavering champion for local public health in N.C. and across the nation. Harrison has often represented local health departments in media campaigns, on commissions and to statewide leaders. She served as a task force chair for the N.C. Institute of Medicine’s Future of Local Public Health Task Force and was inducted as a member of the N.C. Institute of Medicine.

In October 2021, Harrison, as president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), presented testimony to the Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce highlighting the national public health workforce crisis and explaining that no other health care providers have the breadth of responsibility for communicable disease control as public health workers. Harrison’s national advocacy resulted in U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra visiting Granville and Vance counties in November 2023 to participate in a GVPH-led roundtable discussion highlighting efforts to expand health care access and lower health care costs in rural areas.

Shauna Guthrie, MD, MPH, FAAFP, GVPH medical director, described Harrison as a champion and strong voice for local public health in the state and nationally. “Whether in her community, across the one hundred counties of N.C., or the almost 3,500 local health departments across the nation, Lisa is a public health warrior. She is an innovative leader who has highlighted Granville and Vance counties for community efforts to improve their health, and who finds partnerships across various health care groups to further the practice of public health.”

About GVPH

GVPH is a rural Academic Health Department with the mission of protecting and promoting health in Granville and Vance counties. GVPH provides a broad range of primary care and prevention clinical services, dental services, health education, health promotion, environmental health, and overall disease and injury detection. Supporting local public health sustains economic development, education systems, community safety, and overall improvements in community resilience. To learn more about our programs and services go online to or call the Granville County office at (919) 693-2141 or the Vance County office at (252) 492-7915.


The North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors (NCALHD) is an advocacy organization that represents the eighty-six health departments that serve all one hundred counties in N.C. NCALHD promotes health, prevent disease, protects the environment in order to ensure the public’s health in N.C. through leadership, vision, advocacy, and commitment to the principles of public health practice in our local communities and throughout the state.

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