Academy Trains Teams Across the Nation, Strengthens Skills in Health Leadership and Equity


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The Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health (LAPH) adaptive leadership training program builds leadership capacity, deepens skills in health equity and strengthens multi-sector collaboration within community health initiatives across the country.

194 community teams since 2011

7 California cohorts

11 National cohorts

885 leaders completed the Academy

48 US states and territories represented

37M people impacted by policy and practice changes

The Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health (LAPH) is a one-year applied leadership training program designed to build leadership capacity, strengthen multi-sector collaboration within community health initiatives across the country and deepen participants’ skills in health equity. The Leadership Academy runs both a national program (NLAPH) and California program (CaLAPH) operated under the Public Health Institute’s Center for Health Leadership & Impact. Since 2011, the Leadership Academy has trained 885 leaders which made up 19 community teams from 48 U.S. states and territories.

Community policy and practice change

The Leadership Academy’s multi-sector teams are made up of four people per team and the teams collaborate on an applied health leadership project, focusing their growth and skills on supporting existing work in their communities.

Karya Lustig - headshot
In 2021, the continuing response to the Covid-19 pandemic meant that NLAPH teams needed to be adaptable as they responded to the public health needs of their communities and managed competing priorities at work and home. Karya Lustig, MA, ISS

Co-Director of the Center for Health Leadership and Impact (CHLI), Public Health Institute

Despite challenges posed by COVID, the leadership teams had very positive results in 2021:

  • The Housing in the High Desert Region Team built out a leadership structure for the larger cohort working on affordable housing in San Bernardino;
  • The Shasta Home Visiting Team mapped out overlapping connections and work among team members to improve collaboration around home visiting services;
  • The Clean the Air of Riverside County Team built a diverse group of stakeholders to engage in developing a youth-led tobacco control toolkit;

Participants from previous years’ cohorts continue to see successes, such as:

  • Tripling the number of underrepresented medical residents at the Medical University of South Carolina;
  • Helping to advance a New York city-wide law restricting tobacco purchases for people under 21;
  • Increasing lead screening rates from 80% to 100% in New Jersey’s Burlington County; and
  • Implementing Health in All Policies (HiAP) in local governments across the country.

In total, 850 ideas of ingenuity have been generated through LAPH program participation—resulting in systems and policy changes that have impacted 37 million people.

Carmen Nevarez
NLAPH leadership teams are stepping up to the challenge of bringing newer partners to the table and growing a more inclusive and sustainable movement for change. Carmen Nevarez, MD, MPH

Co-Director, Center for Health Leadership and Impact (CHLI), Public Health Institute

Impacts on Leadership and Capacity

Listed below are participant findings and impacts from the California and National Leadership Academy survey reports.

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California Leadership Academy Alumni Survey

100% of teams reported that CaLAPH impacted their teams’ ability to successfully engage partners they don’t usually work with or haven’t worked with before, according to the 2022 California Leadership Academy alumni survey.

CaLAPH contributed to teams’ ability to collaborate across sectors and helped teams make progress on their community health projects. The program uses an applied learning model to provide real-world experiences for individuals and teams to apply what they learn. The teams utilize their projects as a vehicle to practice what they are learning. Program staff and coaches also provide support to teams throughout the 1-year program.

Additional findings from the California Leadership Academy survey revealed that:
-79% of participants increased their confidence in identifying health disparities.
-79% of participants increased their confidence in implementing programs/policies designed to address health inequities.
-79% of participants increased their confidence in engaging voices that are representative of the communities they’re serving.
-100% of respondents were at least somewhat confident that they would be able to apply the skills and knowledge learned during CaLAPH to their work in the future.

See the survey

The key leadership skill that I developed is to recognize the needs of our community and partner with others to implement strategies for better outcomes. CaLAPH Participant
Because of the Network Mapping exercise, we were able to identify partners that should be involved but were not involved in our project. We were able to invite those members to the table and show them how they were intricate to our success. CaLAPH Participant
I learned the importance of including all sectors at the beginning phases of a project. CaLAPH Participant
Two people in discussion at a health fair

National Leadership Academy Alumni Survey

Participants reported that NLAPH helped them develop the following leadership skills and capacities:
- Improving framing, messaging and communications
- Using data & data sources to inform their work
- Networking and cross-sector collaboration
- Having access to tools and resources to support their work
- Delegation of tasks & facilitation of meetings and work

In the most recent survey report, 96% of alumni reported that the National Leadership Academy had at least some contribution to strengthening their leadership skills and 92% reported they have continued to apply lessons and tools from the National Academy to their individual work outside of the program.

Some of the most improved competencies included:

- Facilitating linkages between organizations/movements with shared goals
- Engaging voices that are representative of the communities they are serving
- Promoting health equity
- Obtaining or collecting high quality data
- Assessing and prioritizing community health needs and assets
- Using evidence and best practices to promote systems change

View the Survey

[I have a] better understanding of my leadership strengths and blind spots. I am using that awareness to be better at supporting others with different strengths from my own. NLAPH Participant
Beyond NLAPH, I work with several coalitions, teams, and cross-sector partnerships. I have been able to apply many of the training sessions that focused on the concepts of adaptive and agile leadership practices across the groups that I engage with on a daily basis. NLAPH Participant

In Building Public Health Competencies for Cross-Sector Leadership: Results from the National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health, published in Health Promotion Practice, PHI’s National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health (NLAPH) evaluated the first nine cohorts (from 2012–2020) that completed the yearlong public health leadership program. Additional findings included, high proportions of participants who reported increased leadership skills, cross-sector collaboration, continued use of tools and concepts, and a positive impact on their communities after participating in the program.

Participants rated themselves in five leadership domains and across 17 leadership competencies of the program and all of the domains and all competencies had statistically significant improvements from the beginning to the end of participants’ program year. Improvements in leadership skills were seen across all cohorts, geographies, roles, and sectors.

A core component of the Leadership Academy is deepening community engagement. Some of the intersectoral leadership competencies that improved most over the program year include engaging voices that are representative of the communities served; assessing and prioritizing community health needs and assets; and facilitating linkages between organizations/movements with shared goals. Findings and the success of the program suggests the need for leadership programs that emphasize adaptive and collaborative leadership to advance community health and equity.

For more information, see the California-based academy and National academy survey results or visit the Center for Health Leadership & Impact website. 

Operated by PHI’s Center for Health Leadership & Impact, the Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health (LAPH) runs both a national program (NLAPH) and California-based program (CaLAPH) which are funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Endowment respectively. The Leadership Learning Network (LLN) brings together LAPH alumni and provides continued engagement on public health leadership. 

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