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IVP & Safe States News: Presidential Blog

Presidential Blog

Tuesday, July 18, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Binnie LeHew
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July 2017

My summer break is over!

I took a hiatus in June to “get hip”, as my spouse describes my new metal body part. My grandkids, on the other hand, decided that I’m a robot!  Whatever you call it, I am glad to be solidly back on both legs with reduced risk for a fall and renewed vigor for this month’s blog. There is so much going on that I want to highlight what you can look forward to if you are also getting back to work after a summer break.

August recess is coming up! If you haven’t already been communicating regularly with your Congressional Representatives and Senators, now is the most important time to do so. You can and should attend the all-member webinar tomorrow (July 20) to find out how to get involved. This is an ideal time to invite them to attend a partner meeting or special event that you or your local partners may be hosting. It will give them a firsthand look at your efforts and provide a lasting impact when we ask them to support the work of the CDC’s Injury Prevention Center during discussions about FY18 Appropriations. Please remember – whenever you have contact with congressional members on behalf of Safe States and injury and violence prevention – please let Paul Bonta know!!

Annual elections for Safe States Leadership are now open!  We have a great slate of candidates, so please submit your vote for Secretary, Treasurer, and At-Large Members of our 2017 – 2018 Executive Committee. Voting will close on August 4.

We are gearing up for the Annual Meeting in Colorado, September 12 – 14th. Even if you missed the deadline for early registration, it is not too late to plan to attend! Here are the top 5 reasons I think everyone should be there:

#5:  There are 19 breakout sessions that offer state-of-the-field information on injury and violence prevention research and practice. One example: a session that will address the intersection between mental health, substance abuse, and injury prevention – all fields that impact the work we do for opioid abuse prevention and violence prevention!

#4:  Practitioners of all levels will be able to strengthen their workforce skills at any or all of the “Essential Skills” sessions that cover basic competencies for the field of injury and violence prevention!

#3:  Attend an inaugural meeting of one of the five National Peer Learning Teams that will be debuted on Wednesday!

#2:  Be inspired by each of our keynote sessions starting with how to weave Health Equity into our work, address Suicide Prevention on a national level, and address (sh-h-h-h!!!) Firearm Violence from a public health perspective. 

And, finally – the # 1 reason why you should attend the annual meeting:

To network with your colleagues from across the country and have a chance at winning fabulous raffle prizes!

I look forward to seeing you in Colorado!


May 2017

The One Certainty is uncertainty

I’ll be honest - this has been a tough month. Between the unexpected laws passed in my state’s legislature to budget reductions in critical programs and the uncertainty of future health care legislation, I find myself shaking my head a lot. It seems the one certainty is continued uncertainty…. and that makes my head spin! Staying on task with the important work to be done in our field can be daunting. I keep thinking how incongruous these changes seem to be with what I believe to be true about government, and have experienced working in public health with my injury and violence prevention colleagues.

I love this work and the people with whom I have collaborated for more than 20 years. I feel fortunate to be in a field with so many who have shaped the way our policies and communities have demonstrated real impact in reducing injuries and violence so the world we live in IS safer for everyone.  People who are not afraid to roll-up their sleeves and get dirty in the muck of complicated work and relationships that force us to stretch our expectations and our advocacy. Most of my colleagues have been driven by a sense of purpose around the role of government as an equalizer, an assurance that data would drive decisions so the needs of the many can outweigh the needs of the few. I am confused and angered by politicians who think government workers are greedy fat cats who want to leech off the taxpayer. In my twenty years of service, I have worked alongside mission-driven public servants who use resources wisely and use the best available evidence, along with community input, to be effective. Honestly, there is nothing ulterior about my motive: I believe that living in a democracy requires us to have a public sector that provides a foundation of services to all, and assures public trust by using resources wisely.

May is National Mental Health Month and April was Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month. I am focused on the disrupted relationships that impact generations of families and their ability to cope with daily challenges or weather the storms of life. We know that people exposed to poor housing conditions, lack of adequate health and mental health services, and experience racial inequities fare far worse than others living in different neighborhoods or fortunate enough to have good health care. It is not a matter of just working harder, toughing it out, or pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. When the playing field is not equal, the game will always be rigged for those who have greater resources and power. If we truly want to live in safe, nurturing communities – why don’t we want everyone to succeed? As humans, we can shape our environment; we can make the world better for everyone. I refuse to give in to those who believe that survival of the fittest should drive our resource allocations and the ones who have the most toys wins the game.

I don’t want to end on a hopeless note; I am sure you can read my righteous anger and frustration. Frankly, it is not in my nature to give up, and I like to look at the possibilities rather than the roadblocks. I also experience many of my IVP colleagues in the same way. I love that we are able to work collectively through Safe States – there is strength in numbers. Your hard work and dedication motivates me and helps me not feel alone. Thank you. And on that note - I hope next month is better!

Sincerely,


April 2017

Springing into Action

The return of warmer weather, blossoming trees, and baseball is a sure sign spring has finally arrived! While there never seems to be a “down” time at work anymore, I always appreciate the extra boost that results from longer days, fresh air, and sunshine. I hope you do, too.   

There is much happening with our association! Many committees are in full swing and hard at work. To that end, I want to highlight a few things:

  • You may have noticed that Susan Hardman joined us in January as our Deputy Director. I am so pleased to have her serving in this new position – not just because of her rich experience with state and national public health work, but also because of her strong commitment to our association. Susan is a Past President, whose leadership guided us through an important transition during her tenure. I hope you’ll get to know her well in this new role!

  • A lot is happening with the Annual Meeting preparations! I hope you are planning to submit an abstract or poster session to share the impact of the great work you do – a reminder that the deadline for submissions is April 28th. We’d love to have a diverse mix of topics and approaches represented. This year, nominations for our annual Innovative Initiatives will be managed through the abstract submission process, so don’t forget to submit your recommendations.    Also – please consider volunteering to review abstracts so we can have a wide range of experience and perspective! 

  • If you are from a state not funded by the Core SVIPP program and you do not have sufficient funds to travel – please consider applying for a scholarship to attend the Annual Meeting. That deadline is May 12th, and we want to see you there!

Finally, I want to offer a big shout out to all of you who reached out to your Congressional delegates in our effort to get the “Dear Colleague” letter in support of funding for the CDC/NCIPC signed. Despite the fact that we had to cancel the March Hill Day visit, your contacts helped us get 16 members of the House to sign on. If you were not able to help then, there is still time to contact your Senator. We have until April 25th to get as many signatures as possible on the letter sponsored by Senator Schatz (HI). If you haven’t joined the Safe States Grassroots Action Inspiration Network through our closed Facebook page – please send a request by clicking above or contact Amber to be added. We need your voice for our collective impact!

Thank you all for the important work you do every day. The contributions of our members and staff inspire and support the work I do on behalf of our Association! 


March 2017

“A day without….injuries”?

This is the time of year when our weather flip flops weekly; even daily – when the March lion and lamb go to battle and we try to keep up with the tension between the early signs of spring and the retreat to winter. My eating habits range from cravings for comfort foods to fresh green salads. I have begun to use a stock phrase when someone asks me about my day: “Every day is a new adventure!” While that’s a very noncommittal statement – change is definitely in the air!

How many of you were hard at work on the recent days that promoted “a day without immigrants” or “a day without women”? If you were, I hope you noticed the stories that arose out of the news coverage of those who participated. It was a powerful reminder of what people can do in just one day, with intention and focus.

Please read about our campaign to get broad Congressional support for a “Dear Colleague” letter in Paul’s News from Washington. After much deliberation about the challenges faced by public employees (who make up a large part of our membership) to do direct advocacy with their lawmakers, the Executive Committee decided to commit to an all-out effort to encourage your involvement. We have held brief calls with Committees and Special Interest Groups to explain the campaign with explicit asks for your help. We will hold all-member calls later in March to provide additional support for your participation – including one that will be scheduled during evening hours. We are providing templates for an email that you can send AND that colleagues, friends, or family members could send on our behalf. The simple reason for this: we cannot progress in our efforts to gain policy support for injury and violence prevention until we convince them of the value, importance, and impact of our work. My challenge to you – can you express the impact of your work in just 3 to 5 sentences? Your story could make all the difference in educating a policymaker about the value of what we do.

To meet our goal, we have done two things: 

  1. Amber has set up a secret Facebook page that will allow members to join the “Safe States Grassroots Action and Information Network.” It will be a place where you can get information and freely discuss your efforts and successes for this campaign. If you are interested in joining, just email Amber to tell her you want to join, and give her the name you use on your FB account. Only members of Safe States are eligible to join.

  2. We are offering an incentive to see which state sends the most emails to their Congressional members – and also succeeds in getting their Representative & Senator to sign on. Read the upcoming Action Alert for more details!   

“A day without injuries” is possible, if we raise our voices together in support of the important work we do. Won’t you please throw your hat in the ring?


February 2017

February 2017 President’s Blog

How do we continue to do our work in the face of uncertainty?

During this month’s Executive Committee meeting, the board took some time to discuss the question “What are the implications of the new White House administration for Safe States Alliance and our members?” This was our attempt to get a “pulse” reading on what is happening in our states, communities, hospitals and academic institutions related to transitions in political leadership and identify what we, as an association, can do to move our mission and vision forward.    

We discussed how this transition was different or the same as others; what our concerns and anxieties are; what opportunities it provides us; and the kinds of changes we may need to consider as an organization. It was a valuable discussion and our Executive Committee members felt it was important for me to convey to our membership some of the efforts we are making.

First, I hope you’ve been reading our News from Washington. Paul Bonta’s updates provide everything you need to know to effectively educate local, state, and national leaders on the value of our work in injury and violence prevention and the successes/impact that our work has. Please read and respond to those requests for action – as we, individually and collectively, are in the best position to champion the importance of the work we do, every day, to keep people safe!

Second, we recognize we don’t yet know a lot about changes to the Affordable Care Act or to potential federal funding proposals. It is easy to maintain a constant level of anxiety in light of all the different news being provided. We shared some of the creative ways people are managing that, and recognize that ups and downs are nothing new to our field – whether we deal with bills that erode helmet laws or adjust to the loss of funds for a core injury program – many of us must face these challenges routinely.  So, how do we turn that into actionable steps? 

There was resounding agreement that we have opportunity to convey the importance of what we do in new ways – perhaps conveying the economic cost to our work which we didn’t have a few years ago or explaining that public safety is more than just a strong police force – it also includes preventing injuries and violence. We also believe there is a new grassroots energy present in our communities that may be a resource for us to engage new and different partners. Several Executive Committee members agreed to develop some specific tools to help us tell our stories and keep our work at the forefront of other public health discussions also occurring. We are considering hosting calls/webinars to provide more specific guidance on how you can use your voice, and engage others to help amplify it.

So – stay tuned, this is only the beginning. And remember – keep calm, and carry on – so we can persist together in the face of uncertainty!

 


January 2017

Shout Out & Be Heard

This month hallmarks a big transition in federal government, with a completely new administration being installed. If you haven’t seen it yet, please read our INside Washington written by Paul Bonta. This month’s I want to capitalize on the way we, as members, can respond to his call to insert our voice into the discussions.

We know our members work in a diverse array of injury and violence prevention programs and organizations. Some of you can do direct advocacy on behalf of your programs or agencies, but many of us cannot; And for those not sure, a description of restrictions and allowable activities of CDC grantees can be found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/grants/documents/anti-lobbying_restrictions_for_cdc_grantees_july_2012.pdf.

As a state employee, I thought it might be helpful to walk you through what I typically do when I receive a congressional “call to action” in my inbox – such as the kind that Paul has issued to us today. After reviewing request, I consider if I can offer information specific to the topic. Can I use or highlight a recent data report issued by my program to provide some context for the issue in my state? Have we recently done any programmatic activities we want to showcase, or have we expanded partnerships to impact project outcomes? Once I identify something, I pull together a few key points and illustrate them with a story, a data fact, or an impact. If it is something that I have previously shared with my administration or publicized, I’ll describe it and include a link to the information. Many times, our program successes become part of our Director’s “Quick News,” which is distributed widely to local public health, as well as state and federal health policymakers. At other times, I request permission to send it directly to a federal agency or congressional offices and partners with whom I have made previous contact – those who know what work Iowa is doing and want to be kept informed. There have also been times that I have sent an email from home on my own time using publicly available information on my program to let my elected officials know what impact their decisions have had on everyday Iowans. The example below is a recent one:

Iowa received funds from the Administration for Community Living between September 2014 and August 2016. With an investment of $450,000 from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, almost 2,000 older Iowans participated in evidence-based falls prevention classes aimed at reducing their risk of falling. Data received from class participants indicated that from the beginning of the class to the end, 215 fewer people reported they experienced a fall with an injury. With the average hospitalization charge at $28,486 to treat a fall for a person over 65 in Iowa, $6.1 million in hospital costs were saved. That is a huge return on investment in prevention and an improved quality of life for those Iowa seniors.

The time I take to complete this process may take as little as 20 minutes for something previously prepared or as much as an hour of my own time to pull the story together and send it. I feel strongly that because of the work we do, we may often be the only ones to share the real value of injury and violence prevention programs. As Paul said, “At minimum, we have an important role to play in injecting a needed voice into the ACA repeal discussion by sharing how we improve health status through our work.” I urge you to not stand on the sidelines and be a “collective whisper” during this transition time, but to “shout out” what we know to help shape the conversation. Please, send in your stories!

 

Key points from the CDC lobbying restrictions guidelines

Allowable activities:

  • Educating the public on personal health behaviors and choices.

  • Research on policy alternatives and their impact.

  • Working with other agencies within the executive branch of their state or local governments on policy approaches, and on implementation of policies.

  • Educating the public on health issues and their public health consequences.

  • Educating the public on the evidence associated with potential policy solutions to health issues.

  • Working with their own state or local government’s legislative body on policy approaches to health issues, as part of normal executive/legislative relationships.

  • All other activities noted below under “Non-Government Grantees.”

 

Not allowable:

Federally-funded lobbying activities are prohibited, including:

  • Encouraging the public or other entities to support or oppose specific action proposed or pending before the Federal government, including the US Congress, often referred to as grassroots lobbying.

  • Encouraging the public or other entities to support or oppose specific legislation or executive action proposed or pending before the state or local government, often referred to as grassroots lobbying.

  • Direct lobbying of the US Congress.

  • Direct lobbying of a state or local legislature, other than certain communications in the course of normal executive-legislative relationships.

  • Advocacy to perpetuate or increase their own funding from the Federal government.

  • Developing materials that exhibit:  **(1) reference to specific legislation or other order; (2) reflecting a point of view on that legislation or other order; and (3) containing an overt call to action.


December 2016

All I want for Christmas – an open letter to state and federal policymakers

In honor of the season, I’ve been working on my wish list for the holidays. As you think about and prepare for the many issues that will come across your desk in the coming year, I want to share some good news about the work my colleagues do every day to keep Americans safe and violence-free.

We are federal, state, and local injury and violence prevention program directors/coordinators who work to reduce the burden of injuries and violence across this country. We do this because injury and violence accounts for 59% of all deaths among people ages 1-44 years in the U.S. – more than non-communicable diseases and infectious diseases combined! Another way to look at it – during 2014, one person died from an injury every three minutes in the U.S. There are an additional 2.5 million people who are injured each year and survive – costing $457 billion in medical and lost work costs.  (Source:  https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/overview/cost_of_injury.html)

Over the last three decades, we have implemented many strategies to reduce injuries and violence before it occurs – to save lives, make homes and communities safer, and reduce disabilities associated with injuries. Here are some real-life examples:

  • A local health department partnered with a school district to promote training on youth concussions with coaches in athletic programs. They worked together to assure that the schools had a policy and procedure to take kids out of play after a concussion and determine when it is safe for them to return.

  • Every month, a local automobile dealer hosts trained child passenger safety technicians to help parents assure their children are properly fitted in their car seats. The local hospital also offers this service to parents of newborns.

  • An older woman living alone was referred by her doctor to a community-based falls prevention class after she reported she had fallen at home. After 6 weeks, she was able to walk without fear of falling and began regularly attending an exercise class at her church.

  • A young man at a college party saw another male escorting a woman to a bedroom who was so drunk she couldn’t walk. He remembered a discussion he’d had in his orientation about bystander actions and asked his friend to help him get her home safely.     

What do these successes have in common? They resulted from public/private partnerships in which non-profit organizations, businesses and governmental agencies worked together to identify data, resources, and actions they could take to make their communities safer and reduce the incidence of injury and violence. Using this public health “community-based” approach, cities and states across the country have been able to reduce deaths and hospitalizations resulting from motor vehicle crashes, child maltreatment, and other types injuries. 

Without the infrastructure of public health that exists in state and local government, these impacts would not exist. Partnerships, data, shared resources, and evidence-based studies help us achieve our mutual goals.

Now, we ask you to help us fulfill our wish for a safe Christmas for all. For a small investment in prevention, you can make a huge impact to support the safety and wellbeing of our citizens. If we ignore prevention, our businesses and communities will pay far more in the long run for related costs of health, disability, and the loss of productive lives. Please help us by giving the gift of safety this year!


November 2016

 Keep Safe, and Carry On….

I have been thinking of that WWII motivational poster (“Keep calm, and carry on”) this past week as our post-election turmoil continues. From unending political analysis to protest marches and increases in hate-crime incidents, we are reeling from an election that was, by all reports, the most unique and challenging in our entire nation’s history.

What does that have to do with our association? Well, as experts in our field, we have worked hard to keep our communities safe and reduce the burden the cost of injuries and violence has on the nation’s health. We have a huge stake in the conditions that promote safe and violence-free communities. I have been very discouraged by the impact negative and polarizing campaign tactics have had on our ability to have civil public discourse on issues that truly matter for all of us, regardless of our race, citizenship status, religious faith or political affiliation. We have a lot of healing to do, and it will take every one of us to lead the way in our own organizations and communities. 

The impact the new administration will have on budget and policy issues that concern us is uncertain; however public health has been identified as a critical area to maintain in the workforce. This opportunity provides us the impetus to lift-up what we know about the impact injuries and violence have on health and the cost of healthcare in our country. If there were ever a time to articulate our priorities and needs to those who establish public policy, the time is certainly now!        

Another opportunity we have is related to Dr. Jay Butler, the new Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) President, and his 2017 President’s Challenge. He has challenged the states to strengthen public health approaches to preventing substance misuse and addictions, and their related consequences. These include:  

  • Reducing the stigma and changing social norms related to substance use and addiction,

  • Increasing protective factors and reducing risk factors in communities,

  • Strengthening multi-sectoral collaboration,

  • Improving prevention infrastructure, and

  • Optimizing the use of cross-sector data for decision-making.

Many of our states have already been doing this work with finding support from the CDC. Something our colleagues at ASTHO are very interested to learn more about is the nature of the work that public health is doing in partnership with substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. Safe States is an Affiliate Organization to ASTHO, and I represent our association on their Senior Deputies Committee.  These are some of the questions that have been raised:

  1. Is there strong collaboration occurring between injury and violence prevention programs and substance abuse treatment and prevention programs? 

  2. How are the prevention approaches distinguished from the data- and treatment-related work?

  3. What models show promise in incorporating a broad framework that addresses acute events to managing chronic conditions and impacting social determinants? 

I have offered to share information our members provide as we move forward to tackle this issue in bold ways. Please feel free to send me your input; we will also discuss this on an upcoming State Director’s Special Interest Group call.

In closing, I want to offer my gratitude for the community that I feel among my injury and violence prevention colleagues. Truly, you are the ones who know what is required to tackle the big issues that face us with limited resources and little support. You generously offer your knowledge and support without concern for recognition or reward. I wish you all courage and stamina as we collectively strive to keep safe, and to carry on.


September 2016

This post marks the end of my first year as President and I want to acknowledge some important transitions. Carol Thornton has finished her term as Past-President and Lindsey Myers begins hers as President-Elect. I am fortunate to be “bookended” by people of great character and intelligence, and I thank them for their service!!

Last month I mentioned the President’s Work Group. During the September Board Meeting and Retreat, our Executive Committee discussed and voted on their recommendations, which I am pleased to share. The recommendations focused on key actions to help Safe States realize our vision and mission, while we develop and realign our financial resources, maximize and support our human resources, and assure a culture of continuous quality improvement. We decided to take a smart risk, betting on our staff and volunteer expertise, our infrastructure, and our reputation – by making a three-year commitment to invest limited funds from our reserves to strengthen these and expand our fundraising, policy, and partnership efforts for strategic future growth.

The steps for the coming year include:

  • Supporting increased time for our Executive Director to devote to fundraising, government relations, and partnership development.

  • Realigning staff time to reduce or eliminate lower priority work, allowing for more focus on efforts aligned with our mission and priorities. This includes creating a new staff position for a Principal Deputy Director to oversee both programmatic and personnel duties. 

  • Implementing plans for a fully virtual office by October 2017, reducing our office space expenses.

  • Investing in technology and infrastructure needs to support the virtual office, while improving quality and efficiency.

More details and specific changes will be shared with you in the coming months, but it will not change the availability of staff to respond to your inquiries and maintain up-to-date information on our website.  We earnestly believe these changes will provide a supportive environment for our hard-working staff to continue to provide the excellent services you’ve come to expect. I want to acknowledge the time and planning staff contributed to the preparation of background materials to help guide our decision-making process.

And, finally – please make note that the 2017 Annual Meeting will be held in fall 2017 rather than spring.  We hope this will be a more amenable time in light of typical spring workloads, holidays and other meetings attended by Safe States members. Stay tuned for more details from our Annual Meeting Planning Committee in the coming months; if you would like to serve on that, please let us know.

As always – if you have any questions or ideas you’d like to share with me related to the work of our Association, I’d love to hear from you! Next month I’ll share updates from this past week’s international injury and violence prevention conference (Safety 2016) in Tampere, Finland. Happy Fall.

 


 

August 2016

Preparing for the road ahead

I’ve been reflecting on the many successes Safe States has to celebrate.  Recently, the CDC announced the 23 states awarded the Core State Violence & Injury Prevention Program – three more than previously funded. We are currently awaiting word on new states to be added to the 32 who are part of the National Violent Death Reporting System and additional state recipients of recent Prescription Drug Overdose grants. This is evidence of increased recognition for the need to invest in stronger violence and injury prevention resources in our states – and is certainly a “win” for the great work we’ve been doing to educate policy makers and government agencies about these needs. All of you who have been diligent in providing information to your state and federal policymakers about our pressing issues deserve a big pat on the back for your efforts!

In light of these recent successes and this year’s unprecedented number of funding opportunities Safe States has been seeking, our Management Team recognized the need to do a review of our current operations and financial structure to see if we are well positioned to respond to emerging needs in our field. Earlier this month, I convened a “President’s Workgroup” bringing together several past presidents, our new President-Elect and senior staff to do some reflection and forward thinking about how we are positioned as an organization and where we believe we need to be in the next five years.

 

Pictured (left to right): Linda Scarpetta, Lori Haskett, Alex Kelter, Susan Hardman, Binnie LeHew, and Lindsey Myers

We began by walking through Safe States’ historical timeline and marking key periods of growth, including the types of activities in which the association is now involved. We also discussed challenges facing the organization, including human resources, technological, fiscal and structural constraints. As a result, we have identified steps both staff and the board can take to align our strategic direction better with the resources we expect to have going forward. While we are not quite ready to broadly share the next steps, as more research and discussion with the full Executive Committee is needed, I wanted to keep our members abreast of the process and to be on the lookout for more updates as the plan is formulated.  Finally, I want to say how impressed I am with the honesty, passion and commitment that senior staff and the presidents gave to the discussion throughout the two-day process. We recognize changes can be anxiety-producing, but our organization has been through changes in the past that have only made us stronger and better. We expect that as we move forward, this will continue to solidify the vitality of our association. Stay tuned!  

Sincerely,

 


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