Transforming Public Health for the 21st Century: Bridging Theory to Practice

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This blog series will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by the public health sector and will introduce a roadmap for transformation.



March 26, 2024

The Ripple Effect: Ways to Make Health in All Policies Stick in Kansas and Beyond to Enhance Health and Equity

By  Tatiana Y. Lin, M.A.

Decisions made at all levels not only shape how our community looks but also how we experience everyday life and the subsequent impacts on health. Many decisions are implemented through policies and regulations. Often, the potential connections between these decisions and their effects on health are not immediately clear. This blog post explores how embracing and centering a Health in All Policies approach to decision making ensures that health considerations are integrated into the fabric of policies across all sectors, leading to more informed, equitable and sustainable outcomes that positively affect the well-being of all community members.

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Feb. 23, 2024

Meeting the Need for Innovation in Public Health: Crafting a Culture and Process for Innovation

By Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

In the previous post, we highlighted the significance of adopting a portfolio approach for public health innovation. In this post, we delve deeper into the topic of innovation, exploring what a culture and process of innovation might look like in public health. Innovation can help solve deep-seated public health challenges and there is a desire among many public health professionals to work in innovative organizations. As such, we hope this blog post helps to guide public health leaders as they craft a culture and process for innovation.

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Jan. 12, 2024

Meeting the Need for Innovation in Public Health: A Portfolio Approach to Innovation

By Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

As one of the National Network of Public Health Institutes’ Regional Innovation Hubs, KHI supports public health innovation in HHS Region 7 for the Public Health Infrastructure Grant. Organizations, especially those operating in an interorganizational context such as the Innovation Hub model, often use a portfolio approach for innovation. A portfolio approach ensures that a mix of different types of innovations are incorporated, increasing the odds of breakthrough success. This post explores how innovation is defined and different dimensions of innovation that can support the development of an innovation portfolio.

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Dec. 13, 2023

The Time for Change is Now: Organizational Solutions for Burnout in Public Health

By Andrea McMillin and Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

In our previous post, we showed how burnout and moral injury were systemic threats to the institution of public health and the health of the nation. Public health leaders will need to take bold action to address these issues. PHAB’s 2022 Standards and Measures includes a section devoted to “Building a Supportive Work Environment.” This standard empowers public health institutions to invest in their work environment, focus on wellness, work-life balance, employee recognition, inclusive culture and using employee feedback to drive institutional change. In this post we lay out six strategies that public health leaders can use to meet these PHAB standards and create a culture of well-being that permeates throughout the public health system.

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Nov. 9, 2023

The Time for Change is Now: Public Health’s Burnout Battle

By Andrea McMillin and Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

To safeguard and enhance the health of the public, public health leaders need to cultivate a thriving, dynamic workforce deeply connected to their roles and purpose. At the heart of a high-performing team lies employee engagement — a multidimensional concept encompassing organizational commitment, job satisfaction, alignment with the entity’s mission, and vigor within their professional roles. But how can public health professionals be fully engaged in their work when they are also burning out from the COVID-19 pandemic and other continuing public health crises? In this post, we explore how burnout has affected the public health workforce. In the next post, we will explore how public health leaders can create a culture of well-being across the public health system.

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Oct. 10, 2023

Reimagining Public Health in Kansas: Reflections from a Collaborative Round Table Discussion

By  Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

Public health is at a pivotal juncture. As we grapple with the complexities and demands of the 21st century, there is an undeniable urgency for introspection, innovation and change. In the latest Transforming Public Health for the 21st Century blog post, we reflect on ideas that emerged at the recent 2023 Kansas Public Health Association Annual Conference. The Kansas Health Institute facilitated a collaborative round table discussion with nearly 100 public health professionals focused on reimagining the Kansas public health system, focusing on the value proposition, innovating for the future, communicating with key stakeholders, and bolstering collaboration across the broader public health system. The information here represents common themes and poignant insights from the round table.

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Sept. 5, 2023

Reshaping the Quadruple Aim for Public Health Transformation

By Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

Public Health 3.0 and the role of the Community Chief Health Strategist provide a dynamic vision for how public health will evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century. While these paradigms resonate with public health professionals, their impact on broader stakeholders remains ambiguous. Surveys indicate that only a third of Americans give the public health system a positive rating for protecting the public from health threats and preventing illness. Furthermore, conflicts between public health entities and elected officials are not uncommon. Thus, public health leaders are tasked with the challenge of articulating a vision for change that aligns with and engages key stakeholders. In this post, we look at insights public health could glean from other sectors to effectively convey a transformative vision.

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Aug. 2, 2023

Building a Sense of Urgency for Public Health Transformation

By Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

Prior posts in the Transforming Public Health blog series have underscored the need for change and strategic routes for public health transformation. Considering that change is critical, and yet most change initiatives fall short or fail outright, how can public health professionals guide successful strategic change initiatives? In this post, we will delve into the change management model shared by John Kotter, Ph.D., specifically his insights on fostering a sense of urgency, to understand how to cultivate a climate ripe for change. Future entries will explore additional facets of Kotter’s model for change.

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July 3, 2023

Public Health Transformation: Crafting a Winning Strategy for Public Health

By Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

What would it mean for public health to adopt a more strategic approach? Understanding the true essence of being strategic goes beyond running effective programs or having a strategic plan. In this blog post, we will explore different perspectives on what constitutes a winning strategy, how to create one and its implications for public health.

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June 2, 2023

Public Health Transformation: A Roadmap and Call to Action

By Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc.

With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Public Health Infrastructure Grant, public health leaders have a tremendous opportunity to transform the public health system. Urgent change is needed to address the mounting threats to America’s health and create a public health system that meets the needs of its people. This blog from the Kansas Health Institute (KHI) will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by the public health sector and will introduce a roadmap for transformation.

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Learn more about this blog series.


About the Author

Dr. Kevin A. Kovach is a passionate social epidemiologist and public health change agent with over 20 years of experience in the field. With a strong track record of leading strategic change initiatives, he has worked at the local, state, and national levels. Currently serving as a Senior Analyst at the Kansas Health Institute (KHI), Dr. Kovach focuses on promoting population health, upstream solutions, strategic change, and evidence-based practice. Prior to joining KHI, he led the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Population and Community Health Department and played a key role in launching their Center for Diversity and Health Equity. Dr. Kovach’s extensive background includes working in state and local health departments in Michigan, Missouri, and Kansas. Holding a master’s degree in Epidemiology and a Doctor of Public Health Degree in Leadership, he is uniquely equipped to bridge the gap between the evidence and practice for transformative public health change.

About this Blog Series

The blog series Transforming Public Health presents a compelling argument for the critical need for public health systems change in advancing our nation’s health. Its primary objective is to distill complex change management theories into actionable solutions tailored specifically for public health leaders and change agents. Through an extensive array of essays, insights, and diverse perspectives, Transforming Public Health showcases how leadership, strategy, and change management principles can be applied to public health issues. Our goal is to unleash the imagination of public health professionals and to inspire courageous action towards creating the public health system that we need in Kansas and beyond.

Transforming Public Health for the 21st Century is a monthly series about public health transformation. Sign up here to receive these summaries and more, and also follow KHI on FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Previous editions of this blog can be found on our ARCHIVE PAGE.