Connecting Public Health and Philanthropy: A Conversation with Judy Monroe

September 20, 2018|1:52 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Judy MonroeJudy Monroe (alumna-IN) is president and CEO of CDC Foundation. A former CDC deputy director and director of the Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support (CSTLTS), Monroe also previously served as Indiana’s state health commissioner and president of ASTHO. In 2017, ASTHO opened a regional office in CDC Foundation’s headquarters in Atlanta. With this in mind, ASTHO spoke to Monroe about her past experience, the foundation and its relationship with CDC, and opportunities for collaboration between ASTHO and CDC Foundation.

What are your primary priorities as president and CEO of CDC Foundation? How do they complement or advance the priorities of CDC?

My primary priority as president and CEO of CDC Foundation is to advance public health through public private-partnerships and philanthropy. I’m focused on elevating the awareness and value of public health across the worlds of philanthropy, the private sector, and finance to mobilize resources in support of CDC’s life-saving work. I do this by highlighting CDC success stories where science and a public health approach have tackled the world’s greatest threats to health and security.

How has your experience working in state public health—as state health commissioner of Indiana, director of CSTLTS, and former president of ASTHO—influenced your approach to leadership at CDC Foundation?

My prior experiences have greatly influenced and guided my leadership approach at CDC Foundation. Just ask my staff! I routinely refer to my past experiences and draw lessons that can be applied to current challenges or strategies.

My experience as a state health commissioner gives me on-the-ground understanding of how things operate at the state level, and my experience directing CSTLTS offers me a broader understanding of the needs across governmental public health at all levels and regions. Based on this experience, I am leading CDC Foundation in the direction of supporting health departments at each level. Our flagship effort in this regard is through public-private partnerships advancing CDC’s 6|18 initiative, which offers proven interventions that prevent chronic and infectious diseases by increasing coverage, access, utilization, and quality.

I had the privilege of being on the inside of CDC as a deputy director of the agency, an experience that afforded me the opportunity to better understand the agency. This has been invaluable in my leadership role at CDC Foundation. In addition, I was president of ASTHO during the H1N1 pandemic, and that experience paid huge dividends when, on my first day at CDC Foundation, WHO declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern. CDC rapidly asked the foundation to activate our emergency fund, and we became not just a resource mobilization partner but a critical implementing partner.

What initiatives and activities are you most excited to have underway at CDC Foundation, both domestically and abroad?

Domestically, I’m very excited about the 6|18 initiative and the 500 cities project, both funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I’m also excited about our work with CDC focused on maternal mortality in the United States. This effort is supported with funding from Merck for Mothers and involves work with the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. In addition, we are working to ramp up activities to support the opioid crisis response, and my whole team is energized by the opportunity to help CDC and states address this major public health tragedy.

Globally, we are focused on supporting the Global Health Security Agenda. As part of this effort, we are supporting CDC and countries with laboratory capacity, epidemiology, work force, as well as the development of emergency operations centers. It has been fascinating to add global health to my portfolio and apply lessons learned from my domestic work.

ASTHO recently opened a regional office in CDC Foundation’s Atlanta headquarters. Are there any particular opportunities you envision for collaboration? What can ASTHO and other organizations do to continue to support the work of CDC Foundation? 

We are very excited to have ASTHO colleagues working in Atlanta join our office space. We have already collaborated on support to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of the hurricanes and I envision us doing much more together. The opioid crisis is complicated and urgent. I want to find ways we can support one another in the public health response. As I said, I’m in the business of public-private partnerships and philanthropy. The opioid crisis will need more resources than government alone can offer, and I believe this is an example of where the CDC Foundation can leverage our relationship with ASTHO to offer donors the opportunity for greater impact if they invest in this issue.

CDC Foundation is still a well-kept secret among many philanthropies and the private sector. ASTHO and others can help us become more visible, and we can, in turn, improve knowledge and appreciation for ASTHO. Stories are powerful, and as we develop and seize opportunities to partner with ASTHO, we will have success stories to tell together.

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