February 2014

A new year brings change  

Rosenau HallNew location for Institute

On January 31, NCIPH moved back to a location in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. For more than 10 years, our primary offices have been located in Carrboro, a mile from the University. Moving back to campus offers many strategic advantages for the Institute. We look forward to strengthening our ties with faculty, staff, and students in the School, and using that proximity to better reach our practice partners across North Carolina. Please note: our phone numbers, fax numbers and campus box number for mail has not changed!


Active Living by Design grows up

Active Living by DesignOn February 1, Active Living by Design (ALBD) left the University to become affiliated with Third Sector New England, a Boston-based 501(c)(3) that provides resources, best practices and field-building support to non-profit organizations and leaders across the country. Through this affiliation, ALBD will maintain its office in Chapel Hill while continuing to work with communities in North Carolina and nationwide. Funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other philanthropic organizations will continue.

For the past 12 years, ALBD has been a leader in healthy eating and active living policy and environmental change through its consultation and collaboration with more than 160 local partnerships in 30 states, dozens of national collaborators, and a variety of philanthropic organizations.

ALBD Executive Director Sarah Strunk commented, “Our home at UNC has given us an opportunity to innovate, learn and contribute to the healthy communities movement since we launched our first demonstration project in 2002. We’re excited about our future, and pleased that it will include continued engagement with School of Public Health faculty and students.”

We are proud of the work that ALBD has done while with NCIPH and the School, and we look forward to its continued success!

Staff Changes

  • Senior Investigator Dorothy Cilenti, DrPH, has moved to the Gillings School of Global Public Health where she will establish a national Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center. The center will provide workforce development opportunities for Title V MCH program leaders and staff across the U.S., preparing them for success under the Affordable Care Act. To implement this plan, the Health Resources and Services Administration, a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded Dr. Cilenti a three-year, $5.5 million grant. Dr. Cilenti will continue her work with NCIPH on North Carolina local health department accreditation and training for boards of health.
  • In December, we bid farewell to Jen Horney, PhD, manager of the NCIPH research and evaluation unit, who has accepted a tenure-track position as an associate professor at Texas A & M University. Dr. Horney retains an adjunct appointment with the Department of Epidemiology and will continue to work with NCIPH and other UNC colleagues on a number of projects. NCIPH Director Anna Schenck will serve as the interim director of the research and evaluation unit until a replacement is found.

Transitions bring challenges but they also bring opportunities. In the midst of these changes, we welcome the opportunities to continue our work, always remaining focused on “transforming the practice of public health.”



Public Health Incubators foster resource sharing, meet local needs

Since 2004, the North Carolina Legislature has granted funds to the Division of Public Health and NCIPH to coordinate the N.C. Public Health Incubator Collaboratives. These regional incubators foster innovative partnerships across local health departments that acknowledge common interests and better address local needs. Public health incubators also promote and enable better resource sharing across rural counties in North Carolina.

Meeting Local Needs

Within the structure of the public health incubators, issues are discussed and addressed closer to home. Over the life of the program, about $20 million has been raised to support local community-based interventions that address diabetes, HIV, teen pregnancy, tobacco cessation, heart disease, and stroke, among others. Funds have also been used to enhance health department capacity. As examples, the incubators have introduced statewide broadband networking, promoted clinical quality improvement, and automated environmental health data collection. Especially in the face of dwindling budgets, public health directors and staff find value in prioritizing common public health issues and working together to solve them.

Sharing Across the State

Invest in Strong CommunitiesThe Institute, on behalf of the Public Health Incubators, also addresses needs that cut across all of North Carolina’s local health departments. Recent incubator projects include the crafting of a Communications Toolkit for local health departments and the drafting of A Blueprint of the Future for Local Public Health Departments in North Carolina. The Toolkit provides guidance and materials to better communicate what local public health does and its value to policy-makers and other stakeholders. The Blueprint is a planning document that makes sense of the many important and complex changes in the world of local public health, developing options that may be referenced by LHDs as they develop their strategic plans and position themselves for their future.

Additionally, the Institute is implementing recommendations found in the Blueprint: 1) a web-based resource to give extensive, easy access to public health assessment data as well as to readily display this data in an easy-to-understand fashion, 2) draft requirements for a public health clinical dashboard and development of a working dashboard, and 3) materials and templates for a Return on Investment Calculator for community-based public health interventions. The Institute is collaborating with several partners like the Center for Public Health Quality and the Center for Healthy North Carolina as it undertakes these projects, slated for completion by the end of May 2014.



NCIPH identifies training needs of local public health workers

A total of 4,649 local health department employees in North Carolina completed the survey. Respondents were asked to select their primary occupational role. The roles with the highest percentage of respondents are shown here. One of the most commonly reported local health department primary roles was nurses (27%).

In the spring of 2013, NCIPH took yet another step to secure a well-trained public health workforce.

Using an assessment tool based on the national Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals developed by the Council of Linkages between Academia and Public Health Practice, NCIPH surveyed the state’s local public health workers to identify skill gaps and collect overall demographic information. Employees from each agency were asked to comment on the top 10 core competencies, tasks they self-identified as important to performing their job duties.

NCIPH staff, with the assistance of epidemiology doctoral students at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, analyzed the data and created customized reports for each participating agency. To assist those organizations in preparing responsive workforce development plans, the report also included competency-based training resources and tools. Note: NCIPH also created statewide and regional level reports which are available on the NCIPH website.

The training needs assessment was carried out under the auspices of the Southeast Public Health Training Center (SPHTC), a program funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SPHTC has a goal to “improve the nation’s public health system by strengthening the technical, scientific, managerial, and leadership competence of the current and future public health workforce.”



Journal of Public Health Management and Practice20th Anniversary of Journal of Public Health Management and Practice features NCIPH’s Mary Davis as guest editor

Transforming Public Health Practice Through Accreditation is the focus of the 20th anniversary issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. The issue highlights the emerging evidence base around public health department accreditation through research studies, commentaries, and case reports. Our own Dr. Mary Davis serves as one of the guest editors of and co-authored two articles in the issue.

In Accreditation and Emergency Preparedness: Linkages and Opportunities for Leveraging the Connections, Davis and Dr. Christine Bevc at NCIPH, along with colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explore the relationship between two sets of standards for public health departments. The objective was to identify existing alignment opportunities between standards established by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) and the CDC's public health preparedness capabilities so that state and local public health professionals can better understand and implement them.

Mary Davis, DrPH, MSPH
Mary Davis, DrPH, MSPH, NCIPH senior investigator

Continuous quality improvement is a central tenet of the PHAB national voluntary public health accreditation program. Similarly, the CDC launched the National Public Health Improvement Initiative (NPHII) in 2010 with the goals of advancing quality improvement, accreditation readiness, and performance management. In Advances in Public Health Accreditation Readiness and Quality Improvement: Evaluation Findings From the National Public Health Improvement Initiative, Davis and colleagues at the CDC and the National Network of Public Health Institutes evaluate the extent to which NPHII awardees have achieved these goals.

Davis joined other guest editors Les Beitsch, Liza Corso, Brenda Joly, Jessica Kronstadt, and William Riley in preparing this special anniversary issue. Two years in the making, the publication was coordinated by PHAB with support from the CDC.



NC OSHERC reached occupational safety and health workers across the southeast with its 34th Annual Winter Institute 

NC OSHERC staff, clockwise from top left: Peggy Schalk, Kathleen Buckheit, Louise Bolton, and Teresa Riley.

The North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center (NC OSHERC), an NCIPH program, is responsible for providing quality continuing education opportunities to occupational and environmental safety and health workers, including everyone from front-line construction workers to department heads and independent, professional consultants.

This year’s 34th Annual Winter Institute was held January 26-31, 2014, in the newly renovated Wyndham Orlando International Resort, which offers up-to-date meeting facilities with sufficient space to accommodate some of the unique requirements of specialty courses such as Respiratory Protection and Laboratory Safety. The Florida location also offers the unique opportunity to do collaborative teaching with the University of South Florida and to reach workers throughout the southeast.

NC OSHERC hosts two weeklong institutes each year, offering participants the opportunity to take a variety of concentrated continuing education courses in a single setting. Participants are able to cost-effectively fulfill both professional continuing education requirements and attain their own personal professional growth goals.

Each institute offers approximately 20 different courses and numerous networking opportunities for its approximately 150 student and faculty attendees. By attending three consecutive Institutes, an individual can complete a Technician Certificate Program in just one year. Certificate programs recognize individuals who have completed a defined set of requirements in Industrial Hygiene, Safety, or Environmental Health.



NCIPH responds quickly to share beneficial biosurveillance practices

Last fall, NCIPH launched an effort to share with state, territorial, tribal, and local public health leaders practices to improve situational awareness during a public health emergency. This initiative comes in response to a larger report prepared for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and issued in September 2013 by the Institute’s North Carolina Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (NCPERRC), entitled Improving Public Health Preparedness: Strengthening Biosurveillance Systems for Enhanced Situational Awareness.

The NCPERRC report* serves as a concise reference for public health leaders as they design and manage biosurveillance systems to anticipate and deal with emergencies such as a disease outbreak, mass gathering, or natural disaster. The report also provides guiding principles to assure that surveillance information systems meet relevant standards, while addressing the need for flexibility to adapt to unique and changing circumstances.

The NCIPH project team, led by Dr. Ed Baker, with assistance from our partners (including the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the International Society for Disease Surveillance, and the Public Health Informatics Institute) launched a webinar series in November 2013. During the inaugural webinar, a national audience of over 100 public health professionals from state, local and federal levels learned and engaged in discussion about the priorities for enhancing biosurveillance. Four additional webinars, planned this spring, will feature guests sharing promising practices, the core biosurveillance information sources, and the report recommendations. 

The team is also assembling a knowledge repository for biosurveillance best practices and developing online training modules to provide more in-depth learning for professionals. The final part of the project will result in a plan for developing a peer assistance network to encourage colleagues from different jurisdictions to share information and best practices.

To understand how eager public health professionals are to share information, consider this comment from a webinar audience member: “When we learned that our city was to hold the Super Bowl, we knew we didn’t have time to reinvent the wheel – we had to start with plans that other cities developed and tested. There was no source for this information so we had to dig up contacts and make calls. It would have been great to have a range of plans to review so we could adapt one to fit our jurisdiction.” 

To learn more about the upcoming webinars and this project, contact Carol Gunther-Mohr, project manager, at cgm@email.unc.edu.

* Prepared by staff at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and its subcontractor, Public Health Informatics Institute.