I am excited to take the reins of NASHP at a critical time for states. Trish Riley – a fantastic leader – has built a thriving and talented organization with staff who are all passionate about working with state leaders. I am honored to continue and build upon NASHP’s excellence and support all of you at the state level. Working in many different venues – private sector, federal government, and non-profit organizations – I have engaged states from all of these perspectives. States are truly the laboratories of democracy – where ideas meet implementation – with the goal of improving the health and well-being of state residents. The opportunities that await are why I am here at NASHP.
States have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic – having to make decisions quickly with limited time, information and resources. With vaccines and other measures, we are hopefully turning the corner to recovery. I wanted to take a moment to thank state leaders for their tireless work throughout the past year. With your efforts, we have come so far – making incredible progress in a short time. We are now all ready to get back to how we all lived before COVID-19 – it is a time for hope – as well as continued work to ensure we keep everyone healthy.
In the recovery phase of COVID-19, states will need to think through how to invest federal funds to improve the health and well-being of state residents. This will be a complicated process with many options for investment – not only for our long under resourced public health system- but also for those many different areas that impact health such as housing, food security, education, criminal justice, behavioral health, transportation and others. I also remain acutely aware of the disparities that have been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic – with Black, Latinx and Native American populations experiencing much higher COVID-19 cases and mortality rates. Though such disparities were present long before this pandemic, we have an opportunity with new federal resources and awareness to take meaningful action to address equity – for communities of color as well as rural and other populations who are experiencing disparities.
As the optimist that I am – I see the next two years as a time of opportunity – to expand and deepen NASHP’s work with states. We stand ready to support states in their efforts to increase vaccination rates as they reopen as well as modernizing the public health system to maintain the health of the population and prepare for future pandemics. In addition, states are getting back to the work they had started before the pandemic – which is now even more critical. These areas include addressing health care coverage and access, curbing costs of the health system, identifying strategies to address equity and social determinants of health, expanding programs for chronic and complex populations, targeting and improving programs for maternal, child and adolescent health, and developing new models for health care payment and delivery reform.
But an ambitious agenda requires partnerships as states cannot do this alone. I anticipate expanding NASHP’s partnerships with state leaders as well as the many entities and organizations that are critical for this work – federal officials, other state organizations, funders, consumers, health systems, health plans, academics, national experts, and others. Your expertise and perspectives will be so important as we look collectively to identify and implement strategies for these longstanding and complex challenges. I look forward to working with many of you in the weeks and months to come.