Region 7 Health Departments Share Progress, Envision Roadmaps Forward at Public Health Infrastructure Grant Hub Convening in Topeka, Kansas

On November 8, 2023, 42 representatives from health departments in Region 7, technical assistance providers, and the Public Health Infrastructure Grant (PHIG) national partners gathered in Topeka, Kansas or joined virtually for the Region 7 PHIG Hub Convening. Hosted by the Kansas Health Institute (KHI), which serves as the National Network of Public Health Institutes’ regional hub for Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, the convening provided an invaluable opportunity for relationship building, knowledge-sharing, and collaborative exploration among participants.

Representatives from the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department discuss their work.

At the heart of this convening was a focus on cultivating personal and professional relationships between the KHI, their partners, and PHIG-funded health departments. Beginning with a pre-convening dinner and discussion on the Region 7 Strategic Areas for the Public Health Workforce by Shirley Orr, carrying through to roundtable discussions the next day, the convening agenda was designed to facilitate dialogue and establish a robust foundation for sustained collaboration.

The “Crafting the Roadmap Forward” session was particularly effective, as attendees were asked to envision an ideal, resilient, and effective public health system and brainstorm collaborative opportunities for action towards this vision. Health departments and partners shared innovative ideas on how we can move forward together, rather than separately, and identified priorities focused on improving communication between funded health departments and sharing data, resources, and best practices with each other.

“The regional convening was invigorating and reminded me of what can be accomplished when you get public health leaders together in the same room,” said Kevin Kovach, Senior Analyst at KHI, continuing, “It convinced me that we can accomplish so much more by building a space for collaboration and innovation.”


Throughout the convening, health departments discussed the progress they’ve made thus far toward strengthening public health infrastructure in Region 7. Highlights included the following:

  • The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services is developing local public health support teams to increase the capacity and improve the functionality of the Iowa public health system. The guiding focus of this effort is to ensure that all local health departments meet the foundational public health capabilities and improve the state’s ability to provide the 10 Essential Public Health Services to all Iowans.
  • The Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department revitalized their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to communicate the value of their agency more strategically to policymakers and the general public.
  • The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been working to hire more diverse staff and improve organizational processes through Health in All Policies approaches and a certificate program.
  • The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services is working to create and share communication strategies and materials to ensure concise messaging in all public health-related matters across the state. They are also focusing on diversity and equity in staff hiring and
  • The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is enhancing its performance management by using Clear Impact’s Results-Based Accountability software, collaborating with the Public Health Foundation, and training over 160 employees on performance management techniques, including creating Clear Impact scorecards.

All group conversations from the event were captured by a graphic recorder, allowing attendees to see their contributions and ideas represented visually, in real-time. The illustration helped attendees see how their work overlaps and intersects; it will serve as a valuable tool to guide future conversations about the work kicked off at this convening.

Illustration created during the convening by Sara O’Keeffe, Graphic Designer with the University of Kansas’s Center for Public Partnerships and Research.


Ithar Hassaballa, Senior Analyst & Strategy Team Leader at KHI, reflected on the success of the convening, sharing, “It was an event full of energy, hope and promise for a stronger public health infrastructure and workforce in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. We heard each other, saw each other, and planned for future opportunities to celebrate wins and share lessons learned.”

KHI has identified clear next steps to capitalize on the momentum generated by the event: they will host quarterly online convenings to sustain collaborative efforts between health departments and partners, and will spotlight the ongoing progress of funded health departments, aiming to amplify their voices and successes through interviews and featured articles on their blog, “Transforming Public Health for the 21st Century – Bridging Theory to Practice.”

This work is supported by funds made available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Center for STLT Public Health Infrastructure and Workforce, through OE22-2203: Strengthening U.S. Public Health Infrastructure, Workforce, and Data Systems grant. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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