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Susan Allan Is Faculty in Survive and Thrive Program

Susan Allan, MD, JD, MPH, presented a webinar on public health law in NACCHO's 2013 Survive and Thrive program. This program is designed to assist local health officials who are new to senior leadership roles and responsibilities.
Susan Allan Is Faculty in Survive and Thrive Program

Susan Allan, MD, JD, MPH

Susan Allan, MD, JD, MPH, presented a webinar on public health law in NACCHO's 2013 Survive and Thrive program. This program is designed to assist local health officials who are new to senior leadership roles and responsibilities.

September 17, 2013

When public health professionals become directors of local health departments, they are often fairly comfortable with managing programs within the health department. What may be more challenging for these new leaders is active and productive external engagement with elected officials and community groups. Local public health officials are key to directing the attention of the of policy makers and outside organizations to focus on public health issues and proposals. New health officials can benefit from coaching and training to be more effective and avoid some of the pitfalls of such a public role. 

In August 2013, NWCPHP faculty member, Susan Allan, MD, JD, MPH, served as a presenter and panelist in the 2013 Survive and Thrive program administered by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). The Survive and Thrive program is designed to assist senior-level local health officials who have been in their roles for less than two years.

Earlier in her career, Allan served as a public health director in Arlington, Virginia. She says, “I remember vividly my struggle as someone who knew programs and content, and suddenly I was expected to function effectively in political and policy environments. It was painful to learn those lessons alone and by trial and error.” She adds, “I think the Survive and Thrive program is a wonderful opportunity to develop peer relationships and supportive connections to people who are knowledgeable and experienced in some key topics. The program can help accelerate the ability to be effective and reduce the risks of making mistakes!”

Allan’s presentation to the 2013 cohort focused on practical ways that public health officials can interact with and use legal means to protect the public’s health. Allan drew upon her training in law as well as her experience as a local public health director. She says, “In my webinar, I wanted to create a practice-oriented session that would cover the potential opportunities and pitfalls of using the law in public health settings.”

Kathy Luhn, Allen County Health Commissioner in Lima, Ohio, says, “Dr. Allan’s presentation gave me very practical, very usable information that I have already incorporated into my discussions with our legal counsel. She made it easy to understand by using plain English, great examples, and helpful tips/prompts for legal discussions.”

Another participant, Charles H. Henry, RS, MPA, the Health Officer of the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, says, “Dr. Allan’s presentation enhanced my practice of public health by expanding my understanding of the legal authority and tools available to help me protect the public’s health.”

Some of the most powerful successes of public health in the past 150 years have come from laws and regulations that established safety standards, required immunization, promoted safer environments, regulated the safety of food and water, and reduced injuries. Allan says, “The current field of public health is thinking about how to influence areas for which it isn’t directly responsible—school lunches, walkability of communities, availability of healthy snacks in schools and workplaces, among others. This is the arena of public health law and policy.”

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