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March 18, 2013   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Inaugural conference to put focus on collaborative…

Inaugural conference to put focus on collaborative public health strategies in Georgia

By Johnathan McGinty | March 18, 2013
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On March 21, state leaders committed to improving the health of Georgians will gather at UGA for the inaugural State of Public Health Conference. Hosted by the Georgia Public Health Training Center in the College of Public Health, the conference will begin with registration at 8 a.m. in the Georgia Center.

The State of Public Health Conference aims to address the challenges of the day by bringing together health professionals for a practical discussion about public health in Georgia. The keynote address will be given by Tyler Norris, vice president of Total Health Partnerships at Kaiser Permanente, and Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, will lead a plenary presentation.

The conference will feature several interactive, solution-driven workshops tackling a variety of key public health issues in the state. The workshops will focus on integrating continuous quality improvement practices into public health, working through the accreditation process for public health districts, engaging communities to improve health, using social media to reduce tobacco usage and strengthening the relationship between primary care and public health.

The conference's goal is to use the dialogue from these workshops to craft an actionable plan that would improve the health and well-being of all Georgians.

"We know that the population health status of Georgians living across this great state is not what it could be, and the public health indicators in Georgia show persistent challenges as indicated by our high rates of chronic disease, obesity and smoking," said Marsha Davis, the director of the Georgia Public Health Training Center and associate dean for outreach and engagement in the College of Public Health. "There are dramatic differences in health status throughout our state, often varying by race, ZIP code and economic status.

"At the same time, Georgia has many assets. At this conference, we want to acknowledge our challenges and transcend them by leveraging our assets," she also said. "We want to bring passionate individuals together to determine what the state of public health in Georgia could be. We know where we are, so the most important thing is figuring out what we can do, collaboratively, that will improve health outcomes for all Georgians."

Norris, who will be giving the keynote presentation, is a member of Kaiser Permanente's community benefit, research and health policy team. He helps implement the company's aspiration for the complete physical, mental and social well-being of its members, workforce and communities through services and clinical, educational, environmental and social actions that promote the health of all people.

He also leads Kaiser Permanente's portfolio of integrated physical activity and active transportation initiatives. Norris has a bachelor's degree in international political economy from Colorado College and a master of divinity degree from Naropa University.

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