Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program Announces TeamWork Selections

Sep 09, 2015, 14:46 ET from The Aspen Institute

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program has announced the selection of five state teams for TeamWork: Leadership for Healthy States, an innovative program focused on senior state government officials working collaboratively to address population health challenges.

The 2015-2016 teams, selected from a field of applicants, come from Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Vermont. Each team is led by the state health official or deputy commissioner. Other team members include state legislators, representatives of the state's governor, and at least one official of another state executive agency.

The TeamWork program strengthens relationships within and across branches of state government, builds understanding of population health issues, and opens channels of communication and problem-solving that can be used to address population health challenges. It has three goals: to create robust relationships among health officials, their legal counsel, and policy makers within states; foster collaborations and trust across branches of state government and partisan divides; and encourage innovative approaches to population health policy. TeamWork is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is led by Meryl Chertoff, Executive Director of both TeamWork and the Justice & Society Program.

The five state teams met at the Aspen Institute's Colorado campus August 22-24 to begin their yearlong projects.  "It seemed like everyone in the room had remarkable energy, and immediately began to think collaboratively," said Chertoff. 

The state teams will have access to leading public health law and policy experts, including Carmen Hooker Odom, former president of the Milbank Memorial Fund; Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Health Commissioner; Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association; two former governors, Bev Perdue of North Carolina and Jim Douglas of Vermont; Nick Macchione, Director, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency; and Mary Selecky, former Washington State Secretary of Health.

The TeamWork projects for 2015-2016 are:

  • MISSOURI: In 2011, about 95% of Missouri seniors over the age of 65 had at least one chronic disease or condition, and more than 80% had two. To improve the health of its senior citizens, Missouri's TeamWork project will focus on expanding the role of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in helping senior citizens reduce tobacco use, increase healthy eating and learn chronic disease self-management skills.  The Missouri Team is led by Gail Vasterling, Director, Department of Health and Senior Services.
  • NEW MEXICO: Access to adequate, affordable and healthy food is a challenge for many New Mexicans. Large areas of the state are considered food deserts—mostly low-income areas where residents have to travel long distances to the nearest supermarket. Healthy eating is important to reduce chronic disease risks. New Mexico's project will focus on the American Indian tribes, pueblos, and nations, and the challenges and opportunities of adapting and developing programs to alleviate food deserts and encourage healthy eating to the distinctive culture of these communities.  By bringing together leaders of the Health Department, Indian Affairs Department, governor's office and elected representatives from districts with large tribal populations and sovereign nations, the TeamWork approach is uniquely suited to the project New Mexico has selected.  The New Mexico Team is led by Retta Ward, the Secretary of Health for New Mexico.
  • OKLAHOMA: The goal of the Oklahoma TeamWork project is to develop an inter-sectoral framework to assess multiple areas of state government for health impacts in order to improve health equity and lay the foundation for inclusion of issues related to health in all policies. The project will extend beyond traditional public health issues and include social aspects of life that are linked to health. Recent statewide efforts support this comprehensive approach including statewide initiatives supported by Governor May Fallin. Key initiatives leveraged for this project include a focus on performance driven government (OKSTATESTAT); Oklahoma Works, a quality education and jobs program; and the Oklahoma Health Improvement plan, a public-private partnership to achieve targeted state health improvement goals.  The Oklahoma Team is led by Terry L. Cline, Secretary of Health and Human Services and Commissioner of Health, Oklahoma State Department of Health.
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina's correctional system does not consistently provide inmates with the full range of health care services they need while incarcerated, nor does it reliably connect them to health care after their release. While not a problem unique to South Carolina, it was spotlighted by a 2014 judicial order directed at the state's Department of Corrections.  South Carolina's TeamWork project will focus on redesigning the Medicaid program's interaction with the Department of Corrections in order to address existing compliance issues, ensure that applications are filed and eligibility decisions are rendered for those who are about to be released, and establish pre-release contact between those about to be released and the care managers within their new Medicaid managed care plans.  South Carolina's Team Leader is Christian L. Soura, Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
  • VERMONT: Vermont's TeamWork project is focused on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and the interagency collaborations needed to combat it.  Drawing on evidence that ACES are correlated with both behavioral and other health issues later in life, the team, which blends expertise from agencies with responsibility for health, human services, children and families, as well as the legislative branch will focus on steps needed to implement the recommendations of a 2015 report commissioned in 2014 by the Vermont Legislature. It will review evidence-based materials on the relationship of ACES and population health, and recommend which ACE informed practices should be integrated into Vermont's healthcare, community health and social service systems. Vermont's Team Leader is Tracy Dolan, Deputy Commissioner of Health, State of Vermont.   

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The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit  

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SOURCE The Aspen Institute