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ESPHL PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

CONNECTICUT
JULY 2014

Team Members:
Jewel Mullen *
Gian-Carl Casa
Terry Gerratana
Beverley Henry
Marianne Horn
Elizabeth Keyes
Katharine Lewis
Peggy Sayers
Prasad Srinivasan
* Team Leader
For additional information, contact:
Katharine Lewis
Deputy Commissoner
Connecticut Department of Public Health
Phone: 860-509-7101 Email: Katharine.lewis@ct.gov

States policies shape where we live, learn, work, and play, and impact the publics health. While there is evidence for
what works to improve populations health outcomes, many states lack robust partnerships capable of mobilizing
stakeholders, re-examining existing legal models, and innovating through statue and regulation. The Excellence in
State Public Health Law (ESPHL) program sought to strengthen the relationships among health policy decisionmakers in and among selected states and to increase the ability of these states to understand how policy could improve
the publics health. States determined their own priorities, and ESPHL did not pre-determine states outcomes.

In Connecticut, 74 local health departments/districts (LHDs) exist to serve all of the states residents,
including those residing in rural areas and Connecticuts 169 towns and cities. The structure,
governance, resources and functions of LHDs in Connecticut vary significantly, and they offer varying
levels of service to the states residents. The goal of Connecticuts Excellence in State Public Health
Law (ESPHL)* project was to (1) build demand for and excitement around public health through
education, outreach and dialogue, and (2) create a vision for a robust and equitable public health
system in the state.
Team members recognized that the public health system in Connecticut needs work, and that during
times of peace and during emergencies, certain public health services are lacking or are unavailable
to some residents. The goal of building excitement around and demand for public health, ultimately
creating a vision for a robust and equitable public health system, was shared by all team members.
The team recognized from the outset that we could not define a robust and equitable public health
system in isolation. Therefore we brought together local directors of health (DOH), municipal
leaders, Department of Public Health staff, academic partners, and others. We also recognized that
this is the beginning of a process, not the end. Lead Public Health has evolved out of this work and
is ongoing, a venue for continuing to build demand for and excitement around public health and an
equitable public health system that provides services to all Connecticut residents.
All of our partners have been critical to our work: DOH for their local perspectives; municipal leaders
for their support of public health necessary to achieving a
robust and equitable public health system; academics for their
deep understanding of public health generally and their role in
What this project has done for
educating the public health workforce; and our DPH colleagues
me is given me a foundation on
for their expertise in communications and knowledge about the
which to build sustainability.
unique and sometimes challenging relationship between state
Ive called it cathedral-building.
and local public health officials. The success of this work is the
We have maintained our
ongoing dialogue with our partners about public health and
commitment to build a public
knowing that our goal of creating demand for and excitement
health system in Connecticut
around public health is being embraced. The team and all of our
that is sustainable and that
partners have been successful in creating a process, Lead Public
creates an equitable system for
Health (LPH), through which a vision for an equitable and
all people across the state.
robust public health system can be realized.
-

Dr. Jewel Mullen,


Commissioner,
Connecticut
Department of Public
Health

We quickly recognized that building a robust and equitable


public health system would require time and commitment from
leaders and citizens around the state, and could not be
accomplished during the one-year ESPHL time frame. However
the foundation has been laid and LPH will be the platform for
continuing this work; it is the beginning of a process.
Sustainability in this case depends upon having many
champions across many disciplines, building momentum slowly and deliberately, being consistent in
messaging, and communicating as often as possible to all stakeholders. Sustainability will also
*

ESPHL, a program of the Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program, was made possible by a grant from the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.

emanate from linking LPH to our state health assessment, the local community health assessments,
and state and local health accreditation activities.
Much of our work has been to allay fears and put to rest, once and for all, a history of distrust and
some fractured state-local relations. Changing the discussion to one of creating a vision for public
health has been valuable in bringing DOH and other stakeholders on board. In this way we have
developed common ground as we work together to create a public health system that serves all
residents of Connecticut.