Connection, Optimism Flourish at First Public Health Infrastructure Grant Convening

In May 2023, a broad coalition of federal, state, local, and non-profit partners convened in Chicago for the first Public Health Infrastructure Grant (PHIG) recipient meeting. This groundbreaking investment aims to support and revitalize critical public health infrastructure in jurisdictions nationwide. More than 500 participants joined the kick-off convening to shape how PHIG recipients, national partners, and CDC will collaborate on PHIG priorities, including:

  • Workforce: Recruiting, retaining, supporting, and training the public health workforce.
  • Foundational Capabilities: Strengthening public health systems, processes, and policies.
  • Data Modernization: Deploying scalable, flexible, and sustainable technologies.
Photo from PHIG Convening
Attendees at First Public Health Infrastructure Grant Convening

ASTHO President and CEO Mike Fraser, PhD, MS, CAE, FCPP, said, “Our historic convening brought together grant recipients to share ideas and find solutions leading to a stronger public health infrastructure through three key principles: data and evidence, partnerships, and diversity and health equity. With this vital grant, we will reinvent how partners interface and engage with CDC to strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure, workforce, and data systems. Our collective efforts will help protect people from preventable illness, death, and emerging health threats.”

Chantell Reed, deputy director of operations for Multnomah County Health Department, spoke from the agency perspective. “The PHIG work is vital to the success of our public health systems—particularly for local and state health departments,” said Reed. “My advice to all is simple: Don’t do things the way we have in the past. Don’t approach this opportunity as your parent’s version of public health. We have to step out of our boundaries. All eyes are on us for what we do right now. Let’s make it work.”

This grant’s ambition is matched by its challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic took an extreme toll on the public health workforce. According to the de Beaumont Foundation and ASTHO’s Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS), nearly half of all public health workers in state and local agencies left their positions over the last half-decade. Rebuilding this capacity while preparing it for the next potential health emergency is a monumental task.

The PHIG recipient meeting provided an environment to navigate these complexities. The collaborative energy was palpable as attendees gathered to formally and informally discuss how to leverage this historic investment in public health. Sessions on data modernization and strengthening the workforce increased participant knowledge of strategies for implementing transformation within their organizations. Sessions from national partners and CDC on technical assistance, the PHIVE portal, and flexible infrastructure funding clarified how recipients can make the most out of this investment.

After the meeting, participants shared that they planned to apply knowledge from the sessions to their work and felt more equipped to drive infrastructure innovations at their organizations. The PHIG national partners—ASTHO, the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), and the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB)—plan to host the next annual PHIG recipient meeting in May 2024 to continue to discuss maximizing PHIG’s vision of flexible, needs-driven agency transformation.

Request Support and Stay in Touch

All PHIG recipients have access to on-demand technical assistance through the PHIVE portal. Health agencies and their staff members may request assistance for many core public health needs, including, but not limited to, materials sharing and development, policy analysis, and guidance on program development, evaluation, or staffing. Stay updated on the latest PHIG developments through the PHIG Connections monthly newsletter and PHIG Partner website.

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