The High Achieving Health Department in 2020 as the Community Chief Health Strategist

Reduce the leading causes of preventable death and disability, with a special emphasis on under-served populations and health disparities – this mission is the perpetual north star for state and local health departments. But, by 2020 – a mere six years in the future – how health departments achieve this mission will have significantly changed to meet the demands of our changing world and the populations we serve, and will require improvements to our proven and ongoing current skills, as well as several new skills and abilities. State and local health departments will be more likely to design policies than provide direct services; more likely to convene coalitions than work alone; and be more likely to access and have real-time data than await the next annual survey. These new required skills and abilities characterize a new role for health departments as the “chief health strategist” for a community.

This paper explores the notion of the high achieving health department in 2020 through the lens of the chief health strategist role. Prepared by RESOLVE as part of the Public Health Leadership Forum and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the paper includes significant contributions from John Auerbach, Director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research, who put substantial time and effort in authoring the document. The concepts put forth are based on several working group sessions and are not attributable to any one participant or his/her organization.

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