Texas Local Public Health Policy Forum

State: TX Type: Model Practice Year: 2005

Target population: State and local elected officials; state legislators and legislative staff, public health stakeholders; concerned citizens, public health policy and advocacy organizations, and local and state public health agency staff. Percentage of target population reached: In 2004, representation from 70% of local health departments, Chairs of the Texas Legislature’s House Committee for Public Health, Senate Health and Human Services Committees, Texas Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services and key policy staff, Presidents and Executive Directors of Texas Public Health Association (TPHA), Texas Association of Local Health Officials (TALHO) and Texas Association of Municipal Health Officials (TAMHO), as well as representatives of other statewide health policy organizations. Outcome(s): All LHDs in Texas aware of outreach to lawmakers through forums. All members of Senate Health and Human Services Committee and House Committee on Public Health receive information and invitations to forums. Key Texas health policy organization recognized efforts of the collaboration and offered guidance for developing strategies to engage lawmakers. In 2004, TPHA formed a Policy & Governmental Affairs Committee and created a policy page on its website. Member of policy forum planning committee chairs this TPHA committee. In 2004, policy forum planning committee recognized benefits of involving NACCHO policy staff to provide guidance and deliver keynote at forum on national level policies impacting local public health, and leading state health policy think tank offered consultation for planning forum and delivered closing remarks. Additionally, TALHO and TPHA leadership jointly met with the Texas Commissioner of Health, and with key staff members of the House Committee on Public Health and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee (the committee with jurisdiction over public health legislation).
The Texas Local Public Health Policy Forum was created in 2000 to give elected officials, public health agencies, and citizen advocacy groups an opportunity to discuss and debate issues resulting in timely public policy recommendations to improve the health of local citizens. The 2006 forum will be the fourth local public health policy forum held in Texas. The forums are held to address public health legislative and budgetary issues for the next state legislative session. Because the Texas legislature meets for five months every two years, the forums are held bi-annually, during the Texas legislative intersession year, to develop strategies and partnerships for emerging issues. Infrastructure and preparedness have been two significant issues addressed in previous policy forums. Historically, Texas has ranked 47th-50th among the states in funding for a broad range of health and human services. Public health professionals in Texas have sought various methods to communicate public health issues and needs to state legislators with varying success. Three key statewide public health organizations, the Texas Public Health Association (TPHA), the Texas Association of Local Health Officials (TALHO), and the Texas Association of Municipal Health Officials (TAMHO) all recognized the need for statewide, collaborative efforts to impact public health policy in Texas. The Local Public Health Policy Forum is a biannual event hosted by concerned public health organizations interested in examining issues that impact the health of the citizens in Texas. It provides an opportunity for key individuals in public health policy to meet, interact and identify and discuss policy issues and the most effective means to address them. The forum format includes a keynote address from a national perspective, panel discussions by legislators and public health officials and breakout work sessions to identify key issues, strategies and priorities. Awareness of the increased level of collaboration among public health associations and interest groups has prompted some elected officials to seek greater understanding of public health. Previously, there has not been a statewide, collaborative effort to address public health policy issues in Texas. The initiative surfaced from local public health and has continued to be driven by local public health officials, supported in part with local staff and resources and targeted to local level public health issues.
Agency Community RolesThe local public health agency should have a role in the practice’s development or implementation. Additionally, the practice should demonstrate broad-based involvement and participation of community partners, e.g., healthcare professionals, governmental partners, local residents, the business sector, academia, etc. If the practice is internal to the health agency, it should demonstrate cooperation and participation within the agency (i.e. other department staff) and other outside entities, if relevant.Initially developed by Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH), with county support, additional LHDs and TALHO were included. Currently, three major statewide associations, TPHA, TALHO and TAMHO have formed an equal partnership to speak with a united voice to lawmakers. TCPH contributes to the leadership through the role of the Director as the President of TALHO, and through substantial staff participation in the planning process. These three associations agreed to unite as equitable partners for the planning of and contributions to the health policy forum: Texas Association of Local Health Officials (TALHO), Texas Public Health Association (TPHA), and Texas Association of Municipal Health Officials (TAMHO). The group will provide overall direction to the project. Members of this group are composed of the Presidents and other officers from the 3 associations that formed the core partnership. The group is responsible for planning, promoting and implementing the policy forum. Members of this group will include individuals representing each of the partners, faculty members from each of the 3 Schools of Public Health, a state public health policy official and interested collaborators. The Planning Team will confer with the Leaders Advisory Group from time to time for policy level direction. Overall coordination of this team is provided by TALHO. Sponsors can include organizations and individuals from among the aforementioned groups. Sponsors will provide cash or donations of items including food, supplies and printing. Collaborators can include other organizations with interest in promoting strong local public health; they are expected to promote the forum to their respective members, constituents and elected officials. In order to foster collaboration with community stakeholders, a letter was sent to the deans of each of the three schools of PH in Texas introducing them to the forum and its purpose. It invites them to participate through, in part, encouraging a member of their respective faculty to serve on the Planning Team. The Planning Team has representatives from the statewide public health associations, the Department of State Health Services, and the three Schools of Public Health in Texas. Collaborators are invited to promote the forum and encourage their members to attend. Invitees to the forum include county judges, and members of community and state collaborations and organizations with an interest in public health. The now former Chair of the House Committee on Public Health has twice served as the moderator. With each policy forum held, significant efforts are made to expand participation and recruit new partners, sponsors and collaborators.  Costs and ExpendituresThe estimated budget for 2004 Policy Forum includes the following:  Total expenses ($5639) including: Conference packet materials and photocopying, printing costs, postage, conference facility rental, speaker gifts, lunch, and travel for speakers and presenters.  In-Kind contributions ($98,075) including: AV equipment, planning staff time, support staff time, planning staff travel, presenters, panelists, moderator, and participant goodie bags. 2006 will be the fourth bi-annual Texas Public Health Policy Forum. Momentum, participation and support, including resources continue to increase. The original planning team has continued to expand to recruit and engage wider groups of stakeholders. In 2004-5, with the joint sponsorship and leadership of three major statewide public health associations, TALHO, TAMHO and TPHA, there is a recognition of the benefits of a statewide public health policy network and biannual forum.  ImplementationThe three objectives, as indicated in the overview are to enhance the skills of public health professionals to build effective working relationships with Texas legislators and their staff on public health issues, to examine the vision and expectations of elected officials for the public health system in Texas and to actively engage elected officials, LHDs and state partners in developing an organized, sustainable state-local policy process on issues impacting public health. The activities of planning and conducting biannual public health policy forums in Texas enhance the capacity of public health professionals through increased awareness of policy issues and processes, development of relationships and networks of public health professionals and policy makers, and specific policy-oriented activities by statewide public health associations to support coordinated responses to proposed policy and legislation in Texas. The following timeline for the 2006 forum currently under development illustrates the activities and timeframes that have been similarly used in previous policy forum planning: Initial Core Partners Meeting: September 2004  Planning Committee Meetings: Bi-monthly, November 2004 - December 2005  Program Development Activities: November 2004 - June 2005; These tasks include determining the event title, confirming the theme and topics, identifying and inviting the keynote speaker and additional speakers, as well as developing the format of the event.  Promotional Activities: January 2005 - December 2005; These activities include mailing a date saver card, posting informtion on the TPHA website and collaborators' websites, distributing electronic flyers, designing the formal invitation and developing the event program packet.
All forum participants are asked to complete an evaluation form, which includes both specific feedback on individual presenters and sessions, as well as open-ended questions for additional comments and observations. Evaluation information for the last two forums held in 2002 and 2004 is summarized. In 2002, a minimum of 91% stated that they agreed or strongly agreed that the topics were useful and appropriate, the speakers encouraged questions, were knowledgeable and their presentations were useful and effective and would recommend the forum to colleagues in the future. In 2004, an average of 92% stated that program, speakers, and various components of the program were good or excellent. Overall comments and feedback from participants and presenters at all of the policy forums has been overwhelmingly positive. The forums have provided a mechanism for communication and collaboration on public health policy in Texas at a level and scope that had not previously existed. Progress is being made toward achieving the three primary objectives of the policy forum; enhancing the skills of public health professionals to build effective working relationships with Texas legislators and their staff on public health issues, examining the vision and expectations of elected officials for the public health system in Texas and actively engaging elected officials, LHDs and state partners in developing an organized, sustainable state-local policy process on issues impacting public health.
Include policy process education in pre-event and event program. Afford lawmakers asked to present the opportunity to describe past successes and vision but limit/structure open dialog. Describe challenges, resource needs in sessions with policy makers and public health practitioners/professionals. Include legislative staff in planning, probably most effectively during the later stages, to make them comfortable with the expectations.