Health Administration
Section Newsletter
Spring 2010

Letter from the Health Administration Chair

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It’s that time of year when we are assessing major spring cleaning needs at home as well as spending time wrapping up annual reports highlighting our organization’s previous year of activities and accomplishments. Compiling annual reports is  often a struggle, but on the upside, can serve as a catalyst for health administrators to take stock of  leadership successes and challenges during the past year. With all the chaos and complexity surrounding the daily life of a health administrator, we can be hard pressed at times to identify accomplishments of our organizations and what impact, if any, our leadership had.  Regularly setting goals is one way to help leaders measure their achievements. Having a vibrant multi-year agency strategic plan seems to makes that process even easier because overarching organizational goals, objectives and strategies for implementation are contained therein.

We have all heard the saying, “People who write down their goals usually achieve them.” As a local health department administrator, I firmly believe this exercise works! Annual goal setting has helped me keep on task with steering my organization’s direction and keeping the “big picture” in front of me for the upcoming year. The presence of a multi-year agency strategic plan outlines agency priorities and helps me annually synchronize my goals with the plan. Keeping my annual goals posted in plain view of my workstation and reviewing them periodically helps guide the focus of my work and is critical in measuring success and identifying challenges of my leadership activities. Some examples of annual goals I have undertaken include: 1) Assure all professional staff receive training on basic quality improvement tools, 2) Conduct a comprehensive community health needs assessment with community partners and constituents,  and 3) Evaluate the need for a different agency structure to accomplish our mission.

Ideally, annual goals should be shared with one’s governing board and staff so that others in the organization know what leadership is striving to accomplish in the defined time period. Many organizations use goal setting and related achievements as an adjunct to performance reviews and incentive for pay raises. Another solid reason to set measureable goals!

Governing board members are keenly interested in supporting achievement of a leader’s annual goals because if you succeed, they succeed and ultimately, your organization succeeds.  Are there times when your goals don’t get met? Of course! The 2009 H1N1 outbreak put many health administrators’ goals on the back burner, and required creation of new goals to appropriately redirect the focus and energy of the organization.  Sometimes those crisis driven goals are the underpinning of shining achievements for your organization and great material for those annual reports you struggle with.

Local Health Departments will be required to produce an agency strategic plan as part of the national voluntary accreditation process. If your organization doesn’t have one, it may be time to add that item to your next list of goals!

Warm Regards,
Gretchen Sampson RN MPH


An Interview with Giorgio Piccagli, Chair, APHA Executive Board

By Tricia Todd

Giorgio Piccagli





Giorgio Piccagli is a well known name in APHA.  After all, he has been around the organization since 1978.  I asked to interview Giorgio in an effort to capture some of his perspectives and wisdom for future leaders in public health.  As one might suspect, the conversation with Piccagli covered a vast array of topics, from how different public health looked in 1978 compared to today, to his own path as a public health leader.

His first experience with APHA was like many -- he came to present a paper on “Social and Environmental Effects of Energy Extraction Activities.”  He became a regular member in 1990, and has been a fully involved member and leader of the organization since that time. Piccagli, now the chair of the Executive Board for APHA, has served in positions from Health Administration Section program chair to Section chair and chair of the Intersectional Council Nominating Committee. He served as president of his own California Affiliate, and went on to serve as chair of the Committee on Affiliates and the InterSectional Council.  All of these experiences in APHA and his extensive professional experiences made him a logical person to be involved in APHA special committees, such as the Task Force for Organization and Governance (TFOG) and Task Force on Association Improvement and Reorganization (TFAIR). The natural progression for Piccagli was Executive Board, and chair of that Board. 

What does this have to do with the Health Administration Section?  Piccagli actually started building his leadership skills and reputation while in the Health Administration Section.  His diverse leadership responsibilities have given him an interesting perspective on leadership.  When asked what qualities he believed were essential to leaders, especially in an organization like APHA, he offered some rather strong opinions.  “We need leaders who are taking on the position with the intention to work, not just as an honor.”   He also challenged leaders to think in the long term despite the structural challenges of year-to-year change of leadership.  In addition to the long view, he advocates for the wide view.  Leaders have to govern for their Section, or whatever the sub-organization is they are leading, and the Association as a whole, not for themselves.  A big challenge Piccagli recognized is leaders' desire to take on too much, to try to do it all in one year.  He encouraged a “Willingness to limit” --  take on only a few strategic directions and work collaboratively with others, particularly their likely successors, to maintain sustained energy on a couple of key items.

Piccagli sees leadership in public health changing as well.  Like many he senses we need a new leadership boom.  Despite the efforts to create leaders in public health through the vast National Public Health Leadership Network, we still see a tremendous need for leaders who can shape a vision for the future, and create the momentum and to make it happen.  I sensed as he talked he was really looking to the next generation of public health leaders to step up in a new way at a new time.  Because the field of public health is inherently both technical and very political, we need people who are technically proficient, and politically savvy, with the emphasis on the politically savvy.  To some extent Piccagli blames the system, saying, “In many ways, we have neither material nor psychological rewards to attract and retain leaders, unless they have a superhuman commitment.  Anyone who enters public health and plans to be a leader needs to be strong enough to “sustain the beatings.”

According to Piccagli, the future definitely looks different from the past.  In 1978 there was a “sense of hope” in public health. The National Health Planning Resource Act was passed to develop a systematic way to monitor and promote population health. The Act provided significant resources for local, state, regional and national entities to address population-based health needs and services, and also had within them the germs of generating tools for addressing the questions that would arise. The greatest irony was that this bill passed under a Republican president – Nixon.  This leads to the second greatest change Piccagli noticed, “a vitriolic and non-substantive debate on many issues affecting public health, including health care reform debate.” Today, we don’t have policy discussions, we have political exchanges. This lack of an ability to work across political parties and really focus on important issues is a real threat to the public’s health.  Today, Piccagli says we face a public health challenge that includes a “loss of resources, loss of bipartisanship and most devastating, a loss of hope”– all of this when we are seeing an increasing set of new health challenges in the population.

So what do future leaders need to take on this new environment?  Piccagli describes three key things: cognition, determination and passion.  Cognition, he explains, is the ability to understand systems complexity, and the tools appropriate to that, and having the psychological tolerance for ambiguity – not the need to be a command and control chief.  Determination was the second quality. “It’s easier to find people with cognitive capacity than to find people who have determination to be frustrated again and again.”  His last quality is passion.  “We live in a culture that assumes technical skill is important, but passion for resolving a problem, and energy to gnaw away is really the quality leaders need.  It’s easier to teach someone to be technically proficient than it is to engender that passion.”

Section Elections Now Open

Frances Atkinson, MSM
Director of Component Affairs

APHA's 2010 Section elections are began on June 18, 2010 and will end on July 23, 2010. On June 18, you should have received an e-mail notification letting you know that your election is open. The e-mail subject line  read "APHA Voting Information Enclosed". Please do not delete this e-mail.

APHA has set up an election webpage that we encourage you to visit to view the election vacancies for 2010. Please click on the following link to be directed to the election page:

Your e-mail notification will include:
* Your online election validation number
* Your APHA membership ID number
* Voting instructions
* A direct link to your voting Web site
All you have to do is click on the direct link and VOTE!
If you choose to vote online, please be assured that the site will be secure, and you will have the same level of privacy and anonymity as if voting by mail. The system will prevent anyone from voting more than once.
As a member of APHA, your involvement in the selection of your leadership is an integral part of your Association's governance. We encourage you to take part in this year's election.

The 138th APHA Annual Meeting

Nov. 6-10, 2010, in Denver
For more information and registration visit

If you have an interest in being more involved in planning or participating in Section events at the Annual Meeting, please send an e-mail to Tricia Todd, and we will connect you with the right folks so that you can become involved!


Special Offer for Health Administration Members

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice
The Health Administration Section is highlighting members of the Section in a special edition of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice in spring 2010.  Because of this special edition, the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and the Health Administration Section are offering a Special Members Only Price.  You can receive a bi-monthly individual subscription to JPHMP for just $66.95. This is a 30 percent savings off the annual subscription price of $95.50. You’ll receive your printed copy and have full access to the journal online at

Order by clicking here|W9K706WB
or you can call (800) 638-3030. When ordering by phone, please be sure to mention promotion code D9K706PR to receive this exclusive member discount. If ordering online, use promo code W9K706WB at check out.

APHA Initiatives on Transportation and Public Health

As we all appreciate, our health is profoundly affected by our transportation decisions and options. Limited opportunities for physical activity, higher exposure to poor air quality, higher incidences of adult and childhood obesity and greater prevalence of asthma and cardiovascular disease are a few of the inequities brought by poor transportation policies.

As part of our effort to enhance crosscutting activity and knowledge among various APHA members and sections, APHA is developing advocacy materials and helpful information related to the links between transportation and public health. If anyone is interested in learning more about this initiative, sharing success stories or lessons learned, or establishing a new Forum on Transportation and Public Health, please reach out to us!

Interested members are asked to contact Eloisa Raynault at