State Health Leadership Initiative

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State Health Leadership Initiative

The State Health Leadership Initiative (SHLI) aims to accelerate the leadership development of new state/territorial health officials as policy makers, administrators, and advocates for the health of the public. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funds the Initiative. ASTHO administers SHLI in partnership with the National Governors Association (NGA) and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The position of state/territorial health official is one of the most demanding in government. The SHLI equips new state and territorial health officials with skills to assist taking an active role in health policymaking at the state level. The program is open to newly-appointed state/territorial health officials. First Days: A Guide for New State and Territorial Health Officials is a valuable resource for ASTHO members.

Resources for New State and Territorial Health Officials

ASTHO has produced several podcasts and documents that will help you quickly reach your stride on topics including: 

  • The First 120 Days as a State or Territorial Health Official  
  • Risk Communication for State and Territorial Health Officials  
  • Health Reform the Opportunities and Challenges
  • Health Agency Financial Management
  • Public Health Preparedness

View these resources now »

A Visit from the ASTHO Executive Director

In the first few months of tenure, ASTHO’s Executive Director schedules a site visit to the new health official’s agency. The Executive Director introduces ASTHO and the services we offer during the visit, including the SHLI, and take time to learn more about the new health official’s goals, interests, agency, and challenges.

Mentoring Program

The mentoring program pairs new health officials with experienced colleagues based on common interests and challenges. The formal program lasts one year and includes regular phone correspondence, as well as a mentor site visit to the new health official’s agency. The mentoring relationship provides a confidential, supportive forum for new state/territorial health officials to discuss the challenges of the position and achieve personal, organizational, and policy goals with the guidance of an experienced colleague.

Leadership in Government Meeting 

This one and half day meeting, formerly known as the Networking Meeting, occurs in conjunction with ASTHO’s Hill Day each March. It features state and national experts on media, management, budget, and legislative issues. The meeting encourages new health officials to share their early success stories and challenges in working with governors, legislators, the media, local public health, and other key partners. New health officials also benefit from dedicated networking time.

Leadership for New State/Territorial Health Officials (Harvard Program)

Leadership for New State/Territorial Health Officials is a five day retreat conducted by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Developed to meet the multiple training needs of both newly appointed as well as seasoned health officials, it combines the expertise of the NGA Center for Best Practices, ASTHO and the Kennedy School of Government. This intensive, interactive program focuses on managerial approaches, program implementation strategies, private-public partnerships, and pressing health policy issues. Participants will:

  • Develop tools for more effective relationships with the external constituencies, including the governor’s office, the media, and the legislature.
  • Learn the dynamics of coalition building and working with advocacy groups.
  • Build influence where one has little or no authority.
  • Exchange ideas with experienced faculty and colleagues from other states.

The program includes a personalized skill-building assessment and feedback service which will assist health officials in identifying their specific needs for improving leadership competency.

SHLI Harvard Class Photos

Health Policy Academy

This meeting, organized by the NGA, convenes state health decision-makers to discuss opportunities that enhance the health status and the quality of patient care throughout the disease continuum. Participants typically include state/territorial health officials; the governors' health policy advisors; and one or more cabinet officials from education, environmental, emergency response, agriculture, or other critical state agencies. The meeting helps state/ territorial health officials develop partnerships within their jurisdictions and ensures that public health meaningfully contributes to broad-based health policy.

Winter Meeting

This annual retreat convenes state/ territorial health officials for candid discussions in a closed environment. The 2008 Retreat took place in Miami, FL December 9-10 and focused on vaccine safety, health reform, and opportunities and threats to public health associated with the transition of the Administration and Congress.

Professional Development Fund

Each new state or territorial health official can use up to $5,000 in customized technical assistance funds for a project or training to improve their own leadership, management, or improve the functioning of their agency. Past participants have used these funds to receive media training, special policy briefings on urgent issues, or to facilitate resolution of a state specific managerial challenge.

Strategic Planning

ASTHO offers all members a strategic planning consultation service.  TSI Consulting Partners facilitates the process, which helps health officials establish a cohesive team centered on achieving strategic priorities. In addition, a limited number of $10,000 strategic planning grants are available each year to help defray the costs of the consultation.

Staff Contacts

Ramon L. Bonzon, MPH, CPH; Senior Director, Member Engagement & Development