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Dispatches: Daniel Lau on Why Leadership Matters in a Culture of Health

Our team is regularly on the road, hearing and learning about how community development and public health are joining forces. In this occasional series, we report on what we are discovering to help you stay on top of the cutting-edge policies, tools, and projects in the fields.
Daniel Lau, the Networks Senior Associate, caught us up on what he learned at the Culture of Health Leaders meeting in DC.

What meeting did you attend?

The first partner agency meeting for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Culture of Health Leaders Program (CoHL) in Washington, D.C. The CoHL Program is funded by RWJF and led by two D.C. based health-equity focused nonprofits; the National Collaborative for Health Equity and CommonHealth ACTION. The Network is one of seven diverse partner organizations that include the American Planning Association, the Institute for Alternative Futures, the Leadership Learning Community, the Conservation Fund, the American Public Health Association, and the Center for Creative Leadership.

The goal of the CoHL Program is to recruit individuals from diverse sectors such as community development, transportation, education, and criminal justice that are eager to move beyond the status quo and work across sectors towards equityDanielLau_1W. The individuals chosen will complete a 3-year leadership development experience that includes an intensive curriculum, networking, mentoring, executive coaching and multisector team projects that contribute to creating a Culture of Health.

The goal of the two day gathering was to meet and network with the other partner organizations, receive an overview of the leadership program model and theory of change, and review the timeline for leader recruitment and selection. We also had a chance to speak with the two program officers from RWJF. In total there were about 15 people at the table.

What is the Network’s role in the Culture of Health Leadership program?

As a partner organization, the Network’s responsibilities during the planning phase include support in leader recruitment, eligibility criteria and application materials. The planning phase started at the beginning of the year and goes through March 31st.

What was one key issue you found interesting at this meeting?

While reviewing the leadership application it became clear how important the framing and language will be in recruiting individuals beyond the public health and healthcare sectors. Sector-specific jargon is often a barrier to effective cross-sector collaboration. Utilizing our time together, the partner organizations suggested changes to the lead agencies to make the language in the application more inclusive to all sectors. We here at the Network have also identified jargon as a barrier between the community development and health sectors so we created our very own Jargon Buster to break down the terms and provide common definitions.

How does this program reflect the movement of cross sector collaboration?

The fact that RWJF is funding a Culture of Health Leaders Program specifically meant to recruit individuals beyond the “usual suspects” of public health and healthcare shows how far they’ve led this movement! We’re pushing toward a new normal where it’s just understood that the determining factors for good health extend beyond health care. This program is a statement that our environment and neighborhood conditions have a profound impact on health, and a commitment to begin the work to improve them. Many people working in these diverse sectors may not even see themselves as impacting health yet. We want to help lift them up, connect them with each other, and show them that through working together they can have an even greater impact in improving the health and opportunity of their communities.

What was the most interesting idea you heard?

We had a lot of interesting conversation about what it means to be a leader. We discussed that strong leadership is not just about the individual but also about the process. Everyone has leadership qualities and the potential to demonstrate leadership given the right environment and experience. We are looking for individuals at all stages of leadership who are ready to take the next step in building a Culture of Health.

About the Author

Mia Kirk

Mia Kirk, MPH, serves as the Network’s program coordinator. She graduated from California State University, Chico with a degree in Health Science Education and completed her Masters in Public Health from Boston University.