Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) staff demonstrated continued dedication, flexibility, and resourcefulness to ensure the center’s work met the needs of clients and communities in a year marked by resilience and adaptation. Putting safety and well-being first, the center evolved to meet changing conditions and worked flexibly in a largely virtual environment. Staff brought skill and ingenuity to meet the moment and ensure emerging complexities related to the continued public health emergency were addressed in ongoing work and additionally brought energy and ingenuity to address equity and community empowerment throughout the center’s portfolio of work.
GHPC grew to 104 employees and 26 student assistants and graduate research assistants in calendar year 2021, and received $14.7 million in grant funding in fiscal year 2021.
During 2021, GHPC …
Applied an equity lens to all work — internal and external
GHPC took a multipronged approach to strive for equity both internally and externally.
- Internal equity strategy: In partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, GHPC’s executive leadership participated in the Equity Learning Lab to refine internal efforts to build a culture of health equity and accelerate the uptake of practices, processes, and policies that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion within the center. Additionally, the center’s Inclusion Council drafted and approved its charter and is sponsoring justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion training for all staff. Finally, GHPC, in conjunction with Georgia State University’s human resources, is undertaking a study of pay equity.
- External equity strategy: GHPC is actively engaged in local, state, and national projects involving strategic planning, evaluation, and technical assistance to study the impact of systemic barriers and long-standing disparities on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake, outcomes for maternal and child health and sickle cell disease, and public health measures. The center is also taking a portfolio-wide approach to learn and share best practices for community engagement and power sharing as a means to improve community health and achieve equity.
Assessed its research capacity and updated its five-year strategy
In 2021 GHPC undertook a five-year assessment of its academic research to mark progress that has been made since the 2015 review and to identify opportunities to improve research strategy and productivity for the next five years. This self-assessment included an external review by noted national researchers, calculation of activity and productivity metrics (2010-2020), and a staff survey on perceptions of academic research.
Broadened depth of expertise
2021 provided GHPC the opportunity to deepen its expertise in its core areas of focus.
- Building upon a long history in health reform and health financing work, staff participated in center-directed efforts aimed at understanding the unprecedented federal investment in pandemic recovery and assisted local, state, and national stakeholders understanding the extraordinary opportunity for transformational change and assisted these stakeholders in preparation for action.
- The Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health expanded expertise in infant and early childhood mental health, worked with state partners to modify the Wraparound model for Georgia’s youth with behavioral health issues, and enhanced opportunities for delivering behavioral health workforce development training.
- Staff built off existing expertise in serving elderly, disabled, and rural populations to assist state and national partners in developing targeted opportunities and messaging to strengthen COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.
Planned for a bright future
To accommodate GHPC’s remarkable recent growth, staff undertook planning and implementation for multiple initiatives aimed at building GHPC’s administrative infrastructure, expanding staffing capacity, and enhancing staff development opportunities.
- Growing its workforce: The center streamlined hiring processes, developed a “PRN” pool, improved staff allocation tracking, and planned for new onboarding processes.
- Investing in staff development: The center invested in a broad array of professional development initiatives including the completion of the third cohort of 40 participants in the GHPC Stewardship Program and training for staff in proposal development and Adult Mental Health First Aid.
- Expanding administrative infrastructure: GHPC built new streamlined processes and databases for knowledge sharing and proposal development.
Was recognized for the value and quality of its work
GHPC continues to be recognized for its success in delivering high-value, high-quality work for clients. The center’s continued growth in number of projects and grant funding is an acknowledgment of this success. GHPC is honored to receive repeat contracting from esteemed national and state partners including the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Trinity Health System, Episcopal Health System, and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. The center also engaged with new partners this year, including Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Hilton Foundation, and the National Institute of Justice. Additionally, GHPC expanded the breadth and depth of academic partnerships with George Washington University, University of North Carolina, Augusta University, and centers and departments across Georgia State University.
In a year unlike any other, staff at the Georgia Health Policy Center demonstrated perseverance, adaptability, and ingenuity to ensure that staff were supported and the center’s work continued uninterrupted during 2020. Putting safety and well-being first, the center transitioned rapidly to working entirely remotely with enhanced flexibility and built virtual know-how though expansion of technology, tools, and expert consultations. To meet the needs of our clients and partners, as a health policy center we jumped into action to do our part to address emerging policy needs related to the public health emergency.
GHPC grew to 86 employees and 30 student assistants and graduate research assistants in calendar year 2020, and $14.7 million in grant funding in fiscal year 2020.
During 2020, GHPC…
Rapidly Pivoted to Address Emerging COVID-19 Needs
Since the early days of the pandemic, GHPC supported partners and stakeholders by providing clear, practical resources; responding to specific requests; and facilitating important, strategic conversations about the impact of COVID-19. Staff have been analyzing data and translating policy guidance to inform pressing program and provider needs, while strategically assessing the potential impact for future decision-making and program planning.
- GHPC staff produced 25+ briefs, assembled a collection of relevant external COVID-19 resources, and developed the Innovation & Resilience series with posts covering social disconnection, telehealth adaptations, cross-sector alignment, supporting schools in addressing children’s mental health needs, and rural program strategies in the era of COVID-19.
- GHPC responded to emerging national needs brought on by the pandemic, including evaluating suicide prevention efforts and expanded behavioral health supports, developing a social media campaign on the safety and diversity of the blood supply during the pandemic, supporting the Maternal Telehealth Access Project with University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and evaluating assessment tools for social disconnection in older adults and people with disabilities.
Remained Steadfast In Its Commitment to Achieving Health Equity
Inspired by a June conversation with Ambassador Andrew Young, in which he charged us to think about what success looks like, GHPC staff recommitted themselves to contributing to a more equitable and healthier future for all. GHPC is conducting research, translating findings, and facilitating conversations to support a common understanding of the root causes of inequities and enable consensus building around sustainable, systemic solutions. This year,
- ARCHI supported the Atlanta Area Diabetes Collaborative’s pilot program showing person-centered coaching focused on nonclinical needs is effective in improving clinical outcomes.
- With support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and in partnership with George Washington University, GHPC expanded its work to understand how communities are aligning across sectors to address the triple crisis of COVID-19, resulting economic struggles, and systemic racism.
- GHPC and Wellstar Health System’s Center for Health Equity coproduced a six-part equity webinar series focused on persistent health disparities in Georgia and provided evidence-informed tips and tools to address these inequities. Click here for recordings.
Celebrated Its 25th Anniversary
2020 marked GHPC’s 25th anniversary. At the start of the year, we planned to celebrate the milestone with 25 activities. We published our commemorative magazine and hosted eight events in early 2020 prior to the pandemic. We shifted energy from anniversary events to focusing on supporting our partner and community in different ways, including through our COVID-19 work and equity-focused virtual conversations with national thought leaders. Click here to see recordings of early in-person, as well as virtual events, including
- Health Equity in America: The Past, the Present, and the Future
- Zero to Five: Building Connections for Lifelong Impact
Expanded Its Portfolio in Strategic Focus Areas
Several years ago the executive team identified priority focus areas for the center in terms of geography, topical areas, and staff skill-building. GHPC’s staff made progress toward expanding capacity in all.
- The Population and Global Health Team expanded its portfolio of global work and raised staff’s awareness of bidirectional knowledge sharing between domestic and international work to improve population health.
- Teams across the center engaged in projects growing the center’s presence in national work focused on opioid and substance use disorder (GHPC hosted the Intersection of the Pandemic and Opioid Epidemic and continued to support state agencies in strategizing and evaluating the State Opioid Control Plan) and maternal and child health, including building a maternal mortality systems model to inform legislators of high-leverage policies to address severe maternal morbidity and mortality.
Continued Strong in Its Core Areas of Expertise
Over its 25 years, GHPC expanded from its initial focus areas — health care financing, rural health, long-term care, and child health and well-being — and into other core areas of expertise, including health system transformation, behavioral health, and population health.
- The Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health Grew assisted the Interagency Directors’ Team in implementing and evaluating their three-year System of Care State Plan and facilitated the development of a subsequent state plan to further support development of a strong System of Care for children’s behavioral health in Georgia.
- The Rural Health Team received a record four contracts with Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, expanding its work with rural communities nationwide and also produced a report on the DNA of Sustainability, which identified factors that predict long-term sustainability of rural grant-funded programs.
- GHPC assisted the Georgia Department of Public Health in coordinating Georgia’s plan to End the HIV Epidemic in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties.
- With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, GHPC engaged an active community of practice, committed to learning to advance the practice of local wellness funds.
Two Nationwide Projects Launch
GHPC launched two large, national projects in 2019, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- Aligning Systems for Health: Health Care + Public Health + Social Services focuses on learning about and sharing effective ways to align health care, public health, and social services to better meet the goals and needs of the people they serve.
- Local Wellness Funds: Advancing the Practice will expand understanding and dissemination of tools to establish these funds and successfully grow them as a strategy to sustainably assemble resources to finance community prevention efforts and address upstream drivers of health.
Read All About It!
GHPC released two books and contributed a chapter to a third book in 2019.
- Bridging for Health: Improving Community Health Through Innovations in Financing – Read how seven sites pursued a pooled community wellness fund to address primary prevention of chronic conditions or an upstream driver of health.
- Treatment Services for People with Co-occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Problems: A Rapid Realist Synthesis – Understand what aspects of integrated services made it more likely that better treatment outcomes will be achieved.
- “Systems Thinking and the Opioid Epidemic in Georgia” in A Public Health Guide to Ending the Opioid Crisis (Eds. Jay C. Butler and Michael R. Fraser). Available for purchase at Amazon or Oxford University Press.
GHPC is Growing!
In just the past year, GHPC has gone from 68 to 86 employees! To manage this growth the center has enhanced its management structure, expanded its administration team, and continued to expand development, with the center reaching $12.3 million in grant funding in fiscal year 2019.
GHPC Contributes to the Georgia State Community
GHPC continues to be recognized for partnering in research across Georgia State University. In 2019, GHPC formalized affiliated faculty partnerships with 16 faculty across five schools and contributed to the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies’ Digital Landscape Initiative.
Health & Housing Work Gains National Attention
When in Atlanta this fall, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s board of directors stopped by GHPC’s offices to learn more about the center’s leading role in promoting health through affordable housing policy.
GHPC Expands Rural Health Work
In 2019, GHPC was awarded an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract to provide technical assistance in support of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The first task order is to provide technical assistance to the Rural Health Network Development Program, which provides support to mature networks of rural health care providers and community health partners to improve access and quality of health care in rural areas.
GHPC’s Behavioral Health Work Reaches The Whole State
GHPC’s Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health is a key partner for implementation and evaluation of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ signature initiatives, including the Apex Program (school-based mental health) and the System of Care State Plan.
GHPC Reaches 10-Year Anniversary of MFP Evaluation
For 10 years, GHPC has conducted GHPC the evaluation of the Money Follows the Person program in Georgia to better assess the impact of the program on participants’ quality of life.
GHPC Celebrates 10 Years of Leading Sickle Cell Surveillance in the State
For 10 years GHPC has been leading state efforts focused on surveillance of and health promotion for individuals with sickle cell disease. In 2019, the center also launched MySleevesUp.com to encourage minority blood donations and to ultimately reduce complications from blood transfusions for people who have sickle cell disease or thalassemia.
GHPC and ARCHI Facilitate 34-County Needs Assessment, Community Health Improvement
GHPC completed its second joint community needs assessment on behalf of three local health systems. Not only is this assessment notable for its cooperation across health systems, but it used a health equity lens to assess community needs in 34 counties. Additionally, collaborative efforts to implement solutions addressing identified community health needs are ongoing and are being facilitated by the Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement.
ARCHI Recognized With National Award
ARCHI, the Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement, received the 2018 Community Health Leadership Award, sponsored by U.S. News & World Report and the Aetna Foundation. The collaborative expanded its work in Fulton and DeKalb counties and supports $1 million dollars in community led and health systems change.
Built Behavioral Health Capacity
GHPC’s Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health grew in terms of staff, projects, and partnerships. The center continued to support the Georgia Interagency Directors Team in carrying out the System of Care Behavioral Health State Planin Georgia and to expand statewide capacity in Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and with support from the National Association of State Mental Health Directors and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Developed the Making Connections Rural Health Series
GHPC developed the Making Connections Rural Health Series. This series of seven briefs supplements the Understanding the Rural Landscape learning module and explores the range of elements that influence rural health, with special emphasis on the unique challenges and innovative solutions emerging in rural communities.
Enhanced Health Through Affordable Housing
To date, GHPC has worked directly with over 30 housing developers and local housing authorities to implement recommendations from the nation’s first health impact assessment to inform low-income housing tax credit policy, impacting residents of 10,000 units of affordable housing in Georgia.
GHPC Took National Role in Expanding the Public Health Workforce
GHPC developed and delivered an interactive module for public health professionals across the nation to broaden understanding of policies as levers influencing population health and equity, and to build policy engagement capacity in the move to Public Health 3.0.
Health Reform Workgroup Published Health Care Landscape Series
In 2018, the health reform workgroup evaluated recent state trends in private insurance and Medicaid. The workgroup published five briefs as part of a Health Care Landscape series, and provided requested information directly to legislators and others policymakers.
Research Growth at GHPC
Midway through the implementation of its five-year strategic plan for research, GHPC continued to present its work at national and state-level conferences and to publish in a growing list of peer-reviewed journals. The center continued to develop its research capacity through staff mentorship, expanded use of recognition for research, and strategic engagement with faculty in other research units at Georgia State University and beyond. In addition to peer-reviewed work, staff were featured in a record number of lay-media publications in 2018.
GHPC engaged in new partnerships over the past year, including through a new opportunity to evaluate the Improving Health by Aligning Housing and Health Systems project with the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, and UnitedHealthcare Community & State, as well as a collaborative to develop the Modeling to Learn quality improvement initiative with the National Center for PTSD at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Substance Use Disorder Portfolio Expansion
GHPC expanded its portfolio of work around substance use disorder, with a strong focus on systems-level approaches to tackle the multifaceted challenge. Work included refinement and publication of GHPC’s systems map of elements and interactions underlying and affecting the opioid epidemic, facilitation of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s opioid strategic plan, and a rapid realist review on the treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders that will inform Ireland’s care delivery for integrated mental health and addiction services. The Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health continues to partner with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities in support of Recovery Support Clubhouses and expanded this work to include Intensive Residential Treatment Programs.
Systems Thinking Took Center Stage in National Work
GHPC continued to broaden its national dissemination of systems thinking applications in its work in evaluation, health systems transformation, and cross-sector collaboration. GHPC researchers published the chapter “Using Dynamic Systems Modeling to Advance Common Agendas” to ground collective impact efforts in a systems perspective.
GHPC Developed the Rural Health Module
In order to expand understanding of the importance of the rural context within the scope of health improvement efforts, GHPC developed two learning opportunities—a one-hour overview and three-hour experiential learning workshop. In 2017, the rural modules were presented to audiences at the local, state, and federal levels, including local community organizations, state health departments, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP).
GHPC Received National Recognition for Its Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Work
GHPC continues to receive recognition for its groundbreaking health impact assessment of the 2015 Qualified Allocation Plan for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in Georgia, which identified how the state’s allocation of low-income housing tax credits can be strengthened to support affordable housing as a platform for population health. The GHPC Health in All Policies team continues to build on this success by strengthening partnerships with affordable housing stakeholders in the state and nationally, speaking to multisector audiences, and consulting with other states on how to incorporate health perspectives into their housing policies. They have also secured resources that expand this work in Georgia to include evaluation, knowledge exchange, and capacity building for several local housing authorities around the state as they renovate their public housing stocks to be more sustainable and healthy. GHPC’s work in this area was also referenced in 2017 in Roll Call.
GHPC Launched a Global Health Portfolio
In 2017, GHPC launched a portfolio of work in global health. The initial portfolio reflects the center’s strengths in evaluation and policy analysis. GHPC is currently engaged in the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework for a public health training initiative in Nigeria and Sudan, in partnership with the Carter Center, and recently began a realist synthesis to inform how Ireland’s new drug strategy addresses the needs of individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use needs, and to develop guidance for best practice strategies for the integration of mental health and substance use services.
GHPC Relaunched its Health Reform Work Group
With health reform once again being debated at the national level in 2017, GHPC undertook comprehensive efforts to understand and translate health reform proposals for our local, state, and national partners. GHPC re-established its multidisciplinary Health Reform Work Group in order to track and analyze health reform proposals, to translate and disseminate information, and build a knowledge base to inform decision making. In 2017, the group published more than a dozen presentations, comparison charts, and policy briefs.
GHPC’s Hemoglobin Surveillance Group Hit Two Milestones
GHPC is the data-coordinating center for multi-institutional projects focused on surveillance of and health promotion for individuals with blood disorders in Georgia. In 2017, GHPC released a three-year Sickle Cell Disease Research Planto guide the use of surveillance data to develop policies and practices that can improve the lives of people with sickle cell disease, as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Sickle Cell Data Collection program. Additionally, the Georgia REdHHoTT project, with support from the CDC, launched a free, web-based continuing education series to increase awareness of and adherence to evidence-based transfusion practices for patients with sickle cell disease.
GHPC’s Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health Continued to Grow
The Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health is continuing to expand its work in supporting state agencies address the important public health issue of behavioral health. The team is supporting the Georgia Interagency Directors Team (IDT) for Children’s Behavioral Health in the development and implementation of its System of Care state plan and will help IDT in the implementation of the recommendations released by the Governor’s Commission on Children’s Mental Health. The Center of Excellence continues to grow both in the scale of its work and in staff. The team now has three certified trainers in mental health first aid.
GHPC Selected as Facilitation Leader for National Efforts
GHPC continues to be selected as a facilitator and convener for multiple national-level initiatives. These convenings highlight GHPC’s strengths in meeting design and facilitation and connecting stakeholders with objective, informed content. Topically, these meetings showcase the center’s expertise in health equity and population health. In 2017, GHPC facilitated meetings related to rural philanthropy with FORHP, the CDC’s Hi-5 initiative, and rural health disparities in partnership with the CDC, FORHP, the National Governors Association, and the National Network of Public Health Institutes.