Bubbling Up

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Multifaceted plan will help communities develop and sponsor new ideas to improve infrastructure, while also offering much-needed direct support.

ST. LOUIS, MO (April 24, 2017) – Over the next two years Missouri Foundation for Health will be utilizing a three-pronged strategy to strengthen public health infrastructure in its service region, making it more sustainable and responsive to the region’s needs. This work will include offering direct funding to local public health agencies, convening a workgroup of key public stakeholders to think about how to improve and update the field, and supporting new innovative ideas that strengthen public health infrastructure. These efforts will involve collaborating with a variety of partners, including the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Public Health Association, local public health agencies, academic institutions, private sector public health partners, and many others.

Public health infrastructure is broadly defined as the capacity of public health stakeholders to enhance the health of a population in order to prevent disease, promote health, prepare for and respond to emergency threats, and address ongoing challenges to health. Examples include everything from data collection/storage, to the integration of public health and primary care, to the training of the public health workforce, to name only a few.

Missouri ranks 50th in the nation for the amount of state funds dedicated to public health. The national median is $33.50 per person, but Missouri spends less than a quarter of that: $6. The state ranks 46th in the nation for public health financing by state and federal sources, spending only $41 per person in 2015. Average funding across the country amounts to approximately $92 per person.

“A lack of adequate financial resources is only one part of the challenge our public health infrastructure is facing,” explained Program Officer Jean Freeman-Crawford. “This is a very broad subject with an incredible number of moving parts. We’re hoping to bring more people to the table, cultivate innovative ideas, and support exciting concepts that have the potential for big impact.”

Missouri Foundation for Health also realizes that the region’s current public health infrastructure has immediate needs. In order to address this, the Foundation is offering direct funding to local public health agencies on a sliding scale, based upon the poverty rate of their county.

President and CEO Robert Hughes explained more about the strategy of the three-pronged approach, stating that, “With this work we’re really thinking both short- and long-term. Clearly we need to help sustain the services that our public health infrastructure currently provides, and that’s where our immediate direct support comes in. But we’re also working to cultivate new ways we can innovate and improve the field in the years to come. We want to encourage fresh ways of thinking and collaborating to improve how public health infrastructure functions. We don’t plan on reforming our region’s health infrastructure in just two years, but we’re expecting to learn a tremendous amount by seeing what works and what doesn’t, while testing out potentially transformative ideas.”

A workgroup of key public stakeholders is already meeting to collaborate on new concepts. By this summer 85 public health agencies throughout the Foundation’s service region will have received their disbursement of the direct funding. A request for applications will also be issued in the coming months to solicit innovative ideas to strengthen public health infrastructure. Join the Foundation’s mailing list to be the first to learn about these and other opportunities, or visit mffh.org to learn more about the Foundation’s work.