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SACCHOs- A Valuable Resource in Today's Challenging Times

Here is an excerpt from the Spring 2013 Issue of NACCHO Exchange, about SACCHOs written by Winnifred Holland, MPH, MA, MLHC, Health Officer, Florida Department of Health, Clay County Health Department.


What is a state association of county and city health officials (SACCHO) and how does it benefit the local health department (LHD)? That question can be answered using many different examples of how SACCHOs provide LHDs with information, support, and education on public health issues. According to Jennifer Kertanis, former Connecticut SACCHO executive director and current director of health of Farmington Valley Health District, "SACCHOs provide a unified and strong voice for local health departments at the state and national levels and serve as a bridge between [the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)] and local health departments." Thirty eight states have SACCHOs. Some SACCHOs have paid full-time staff, and others use local health officials and part-time staff to help LHDs share resources, work on grant initiatives, and collaborate on research activities.

Accreditation: SACCHOs are also working closely with their LHDs on accreditation activities. "Our state SACCHO has been instrumental in North Dakota and serves as a tremendous resource for sharing and furthering progress in many areas, particularly performance improvement and accreditation," said Tami Dillman, North Dakota SACCHO Director.

Mentoring and Leadership: The Florida Association of County Health Officials (FACHO) provides input to the state officials. FACHO also developed a mentoring program for new health officers. This program ensures that new health officers are connected with a seasoned public health professional that can assist the new health officer in learning all aspects of managing an LHD. In operation for less than a year, this initiative has been well received by the mentees (new health officers) and the mentors (seasoned health officers). This effort is coordinated by Marsha Player Lindeman, MPH, Health Officer in Franklin and Gulf County, and FACHO board member. "It is exciting to work with these new health officers and see them develop their leadership skills and be willing to take on additional roles both within the state and in FACHO," said Lindeman.
    Many SACCHOs provide leadership trainings and conferences for local health officers. These programs are designed to ensure that leadership development opportunities are maintained even in difficult economic times, when LHDs have limited financial resources. For example, conferences are provided in centralized locations that limit the necessity of overnight travel, or LHDs may share training costs. 

Interactions and Relationships:  The challenges of being a health officer can be mitigated by having LHDs interact with other public health professionals experiencing similar issues. Just as NACCHO provides an opportunity for even the smallest health department to conduct an outstanding program or project by using the resources of a national organization, so too can LHDs learn from their counterparts within the state about what initiatives work best.

Advocacy: Advocacy at the state level is an important activity that SACCHOs perform to ensure that the voice of local public health is heard and understood in state legislatures. Educating and advocating for public health has an impact on funding and public policy that impacts services at the local level. SACCHOs are very well positioned to provide a strong voice representing both large and small LHDs. "One of the most important responsibilities of SACCHOs," according to Kertanis, "is getting input from the local officials and rallying their support on the state and national level."
 In many states, SACCHOs train members in how to work with local boards of health and advocate at state and national levels for public health issues. These conferences provide another avenue for NACCHO messages to be conveyed on the local level and include sharing model practices, programs such as Survive and Thrive, and information on Project Public Health Ready.

To read more of this article from the Spring 2013 Exchange, visit the NACCHO Bookstore.