A few words from our President Binnie LeHew, MSW, the Executive Officer for the Office of Disability, Injury & Violence Prevention at the Iowa Department of Public Health.
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:
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!
“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:
“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?
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!
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
Federally-funded lobbying activities are prohibited, including:
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:
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!
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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!
Love will always win
The last few weeks have raised our country’s alarm, again, about the impact of gun violence on safety in our communities and the worth of the victims impacted. The tragedy of lives lost and injured in Orlando has resulted in a rallying cry for gun control/gun safety amongst the political discourse and vows to stand up for those who may be targeted. I have personally been moved by the thousands upon thousands of people who have used social media and active demonstration in their communities to spread the word that hate loses and love will always win. It is this kind of response that gives me faith in the spirit of community more than anything.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the Washington Post ran a good story with FAQ’s about the rise in gun violence and the public’s attitude about gun rights vs. gun control. Two were particularly poignant: 1) where there are more guns, there are more homicides and 2) active shooter events have become more common in recent years. The FBI defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” The average number of annual active shootings has increased from six to 16 per year. Surveys indicate there are more people who support gun rights than ever before while the popularity of gun control has been declining. However, a survey conducted by Pew Research found there are specific policies that many people support; these include background checks, assault weapons ban, and a federal database to track guns.
I mention this because of the work that Safe States Alliance has done to promote firearm safety. Recently, the Executive Committee approved a position statement that advocates policy actions on the accountable sale and transfer of firearms. We believe these actions can be a “win-win” for both gun rights and gun safety advocates. I hope you will read and use this information to support your work in the coming months as you meet with policymakers or civic leaders about safety in your communities.
I would like to end this month’s blog with a recognition of one of our colleagues, who recently made a career transition. Ellen R. Schmidt – the first President of STIPDA (now Safe States Alliance) - left her position with the Education Development Center/Children’s Safety Network after nearly 19 years. She started her career as an occupational therapist, and worked in the Maryland Department of Health & Hygiene to direct their first injury and violence prevention program. Ellen didn’t want to patch people up after the fact; she dedicated her life’s work to prevention. Ellen served on many national advisory groups and worked tirelessly to improve safety conditions for children. A colleague of mine spoke with me about her view of this transition – and it is, indeed the passing of a torch. Ellen, I don’t believe your torch will burn out anytime soon – so I give you a blessing that you have given to others – “Stay well, be happy, and laugh a lot!”
Summer is in full swing!
Spring is in full bloom and summer breezes are blowing; I’ve been attending graduation celebrations as another school year comes to an end. It’s hard not to want to be on “summer vacation” even though it has been many years since I had my summers off! Many of us in state health departments had a very busy spring with grant applications and state policy activities – so hopefully, as we move into summer you all can enjoy a lighter schedule.
I thought I would provide a brief update on projects staff and volunteers have been doing.
Safe States will conduct two STAT visits this summer – one to North Dakota in June for their second visit and the other to Minnesota in August for their first visit. Both states hope to gain insights into strong aspects of their state injury and violence prevention programs as well as areas for improvement.
Through a contract with the Association of State & Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), Safe States has been working on a project with the CDC’s RPE Program. The project’s purpose is to enhance State Health Departments’ abilities to strengthen their sexual violence prevention infrastructure to support the successful implementation and evaluation of their RPE programs. As a part of this project, Safe States is producing a series of stories from the field to highlight aspects of state programs that are doing strong work in this area. Those are expected to be released later this summer.
Staff has been busy developing additional proposals to support our desire to strengthen hospital-based injury prevention programs and further expand our work with the Joyce Foundation related to violent deaths.
As your President, I have participated on the Sr. Deputies Committee of ASTHO and their Peer Networking calls to provide input on injury and violence prevention strategies in health departments. Additionally, I have held regular conference calls with SAVIR’s President, Carri Casteel, who also lives in Iowa! We’ve been working on ideas for partnering between the two organizations and are developing a joint workgroup we expect to launch this summer – so stay tuned!
As always, I welcome your thoughts and your ideas to help strengthen our association. Have a great month!
May 6, 2016
Every member’s voice matters!
At the annual meeting in April, the Executive Committee met with our Government Relations Consultant, Paul Bonta. Paul has been working with our association for over a year to help us advance our policy priorities. He helps guide the work that we do to convene the Injury and Violence Prevention Network. We are fortunate to have Paul on staff as he has really dialed up the presence and focus of our policy work in Washington. Last year, when the Executive Committee developed the three-year strategic map, we committed to supporting key activities of developing policy and advocacy resources, educating decision-makers to advance the field, and magnifying our voice through collective policy strategies.
The good news is that we are seeing a time when our priorities are receiving strong national attention – there are many partners engaged in support of our work and we have witnessed increased focus and resources to address emerging areas such as prescription drug overdose and violent death reporting. If there ever was a time when our issues are receiving Congressional attention, it is now.
The down side? Our effort to get broad support for a “Dear Colleague” letter in both the House and Senate supporting the need for core injury and violence prevention funding failed. The barrier? An insufficient grassroots response.
Your Executive Committee members spent time at our meeting to identify important steps that the association needs to take in order to realize the impact that Safe States can have on policy change for our field. Here are some of the takeaways I wanted to share with members:
Safe States has developed many resources to assist you in this work. If you don’t already have a fact sheet that describes the work happening in your state to prevent injuries and violence, develop one. There are templates you can use and colleagues in neighboring states who can assist you in preparing and providing this information to elected officials.
Here is my challenge to each and every one of you: step up your game; identify and take at least one specific step that includes outreach to educate and get to know your national elected officials. I am committing to contacting my Congressman and Senators at least quarterly by providing updates on our work and inviting them to key events in our state. I also commit to asking my colleagues and partners to do the same – in order to magnify the reach and influence that I can have.
Will you join me? If so, please remember to let Paul know about your key contacts and the information you communicate. He will be more than happy to follow-up with your delegation the next time he is on the Hill in Washington.