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An Evaluation of the National Public Health Leadership Institute–1991-2006: Part II. Strengthening Public Health Leadership Networks, Systems, and Infrastructure

Umble, Karl PhD, MPH; Baker, Edward L. MD, MPH; Diehl, Sandra J. MPH; Haws, Susan MPH; Steffen, David DrPH, MSN, MPH; Frederick, Steve MPA; Woltring, Carol MPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: May/June 2011 - Volume 17 - Issue 3 - p 214–224
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31820759d0
Original Article

Context: The year-long National Public Health Leadership Institute's (PHLI) goals are to develop the capacity of individual leaders and networks of leaders so that both can lead improvements in public health systems, infrastructure, and population health.

Objective: To evaluate PHLI's impact on networks, systems, and infrastructure.

Participants: Senior leaders from government, health care, associations, and other organizations who graduated from PHLI between 1992 and 2006.

Intervention: Retreats; readings, conference calls, and webinars; personal assessments, feedback, and coaching; and action learning projects.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey sent in 2007 to all leaders from the program's first 15 cohorts. Between 1992 and 2006, PHLI graduated 806 leaders. Of the 646 graduates located, 393 (61%) responded, for an overall response rate of 49% (393/806). Telephone interviews of 35 key informants were also conducted.

Results: Graduates fostered changes in systems, policies, organizations, and programs and frequently described these changes as resulting from their work as or with networks. Many graduates formed an informal national network of “thought leaders” and volunteered with professional associations to help in creating methods for improving systems and infrastructure. At the state level, graduates worked as informal networks and with associations to restructure services, reorganize agencies, catalyze new laws, and develop programs. Locally, graduates developed coalitions, fostered new laws, and improved programs, among other changes.

Conclusion: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's multiyear sponsorship of a national program fostered national networks among “thought leaders” who helped to lead the development and diffusion of numerous innovations. Public health leadership development program sponsors should foster collaborative leadership by engaging leaders in systems thinking, team leadership, dialogue, conflict resolution, and negotiation, recommend using networks for sustained personal and system development, and link leaders to networks and associations. Networks provide the collective creativity and broad support needed to enact system and infrastructure changes.

This study describes the evaluation of the Public Health Leadership Institute's impact on networks, systems, and infrastructure.

North Carolina Institute for Public Health (Drs Umble and Baker), Department of Health Behavior and Education (Ms Haws), and, Public Health Leadership Program (Dr Steffen), UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health (Drs Umble, Baker and Ms Diehl), and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (Ms Diehl), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia (Mr Frederick); and Center for Health Leadership and Practice, Public Health Institute, Oakland, California (Ms Woltring).

Correspondence: Karl Umble, PhD, MPH, North Carolina Institute for Public Health, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Campus Box 8165, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27599 (

The National Public Health Leadership Institute is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its sponsorship, Donna Dinkin and numerous graduates for helping to shape the evaluation questions and instruments, and Steve Orton, Molly Cannon, David Altman, Mary V. Davis and Dorothy Cilenti for comments on drafts.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.