Propelling Public Health Leadership across South Texas:
Training Local Environmental Health Staff in Leadership
Problem Statement: Creating a culture of health in the Rio Grande Valley is a priority, especially in Brownsville. This area bordering Mexico has some of the highest rates of chronic disease, poverty, and illiteracy. Public health departments experienced significant budget reductions, leaving the area especially vulnerable. After receiving RWJF’s Culture of Health Prize, we identified a need to create sustainable leadership. One way is to educate present and future leaders by introducing them to successful public health leaders working in similar circumstances.
Approach: We held a one-day leadership track within the South Texas Environmental Health Association’s annual conference. Faculty included experienced national public health leaders and a university nursing professor, who shared leadership experiences and principles.
Products/Outcome: The leadership track attendees were surveyed on their willingness and readiness to continue learning about professional and personal leadership development. The attendees responded to follow up surveys at the end of the conference and at 30, 60 and 90 days. Of 16 initial participants, 15 completed all surveys. Surveys taken at 30 days post conference were not used due to technical difficulties with the survey software.
The respondents identified themselves as Gen X (40%), Baby Boomers (40%) and Gen Y (20%) (Millennials). They increasingly ranked their employers as loyal to them, at the close of the conference (62%), post 60 days (66%) and post 90 days (80%). Most survey respondents rated their current training as adequate at the close of the conference (93%), post 60 days (80%) and post 90 days (93%). A majority of respondents rated themselves as preferring supervising others (60%) at 60 and 90 days, followed by leading others with no supervisory title. Respondents could also choose not seeking a leadership or supervisory role, but instead seeking self-understanding and self-reflection. Preference for this option decreased over the time span of the surveys. Overall, a majority of survey respondents at 60 days (66%) and 90 days (72%) plan to develop their leadership skills, most likely in 6-12 months and beyond.
Implications: Emerging local public health leaders are available and willing to take on developing a culture of health in their communities, given the opportunity to develop their leadership skills.