The Initiative

Help us transform public health into a stronger system that offers every Missouri resident the opportunity for a healthier life.

The #HealthierMO grassroots initiative seeks to positively impact the health of Missouri residents by transforming our current public health system into a stronger, sustainable, culturally relevant and responsive system that can meet the challenges of our diverse communities. Phase one of this multi-phase initiative seeks to engage stakeholders from across the state in identifying what is working well and where we have opportunity for change. Stakeholders will work together to design evidence-informed strategies and develop an action plan. The initiative does not propose a quick fix, but rather advocates for long-term, system-wide change that will transform the future of public health in Missouri and offer every resident the opportunity for a healthier life.

Graphic that depicts a foundational public health services model from the Public Health National Center for Innovations.

What is Public Health?

Primary care treats individuals after they become sick, but public health focuses on disease prevention for the entire community. Public health provides foundational services like communicable disease prevention and control, injury prevention, and environmental health.

Primary care, public health, and community partners can work together to address Missouri's health care needs. They can advocate for policy change, the use of evidence-based models, and outcome-driven programs and services. Together they can affect population health change that offers a healthier future for all Missouri residents.

Learn more about public health

Photo of a nurse giving a young girl an immunization.

To have a stronger, more sustainable public health system, it will take local agencies working collaboratively together in ways that we have not thought of before – sharing resources and funding streams so that we all have a strong agency to provide services in our communities.

Michelle Morris, Administrator, Polk County Health Center, Bolivar, MO

Photo of a teen-age girl visiting with her school counselor.

Current Situation

  • Missouri has a complex public health system, with 114 autonomous local public health agencies, a state health department, academic institutions, and multiple professional organizations
  • Missouri has great diversity in access to care, health insurance status, food environments, and opportunities for physical exercise
  • Missouri ranks second-to-last in the nation in per capita spending on public health services, spending only $5.88 per person each year1
  • Missouri spends nearly $7,000 per person in health care costs each year, exceeding more than half of the other states' spending2
  • Missouri ranks in the lowest 10 states in the nation in health indicators like adult smoking, violent crime, cancer deaths, cardiovascular deaths, and child and adolescent immunizations5
Graphic depicting the return on investment for public health dollars.

Opportunities to Improve

  • In a recent survey public health leaders in Missouri agreed that now is the time to move forward with improving the public health system
  • Designing a system that connects health and social services to address gaps and connect patients with programs that meet their needs could result in significant financial savings within 10 years
  • Every $1 of funding invested in proven, evidence-based community prevention programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and reduce tobacco use leads up to a $5.60 return3
  • Every $1 of funding invested in substance abuse prevention achieves up to a $34 return4
Photo of McDonald County Health Department staff showing a young family how to safely install a car seat for their child.

We have gaps in funding, lack a consistent definition of public health, and need universal messaging about the value of public health. We also need training and workforce development, along with public education, if we want to have a public health system that has the ability to adapt to changing community health needs and improve the health of all Missourians.

Paige Behm, Administrator, McDonald County Health Department, Pineville, MO

Image of facilitator leading group discussion at Convening Session

Stakeholder Convening Session

The #HealthierMO initiative gathered more than 120 public health stakeholders in Columbia, MO on March 1, 2018 to seek input on the structure and process for moving the initiative forward. The facilitated session included table discussions, polls, surveys, group discussions and other activities focused around reaching consensus on the process for forming an Advisory Council and identifying the top public health issues the Advisory Council should address.

Learn more

Your Stories

Greener Pastures

The public health workforce is shrinking nationwide, with nearly four in ten workers saying they will leave the field by 2020. Missouri needs creative solutions to addressing low wages, an aging workforce, staffing shortages and other challenges. Fortunately, experienced stakeholders and young professionals passionate about the public health are weighing in. They share their innovative ideas for keeping the grass greener in the public health field.

Read the story

Initiative Updates

Keeping you informed and engaged in the #HealthierMO initiative to transform the future of public health.

Our interactive timeline below highlights initiative milestones reached to date. Swipe or use the arrows to navigate between milestones.

  • What's New

    Hundreds of public health system stakeholders from across Missouri shared ideas about system transformation during Phase I of the initiative. Your voice matters! View the video.

    Missouri faces a serious workforce retention challenge as many masters of public health graduates move out of state and away from governmental public health. Review the background and results of a 2017 study conducted by the Missouri Public Health Association.

  • Background

    Early work on the initiative began in 2014 with surveys of 360 people and key informant interviews that informed the Phase I funding proposal.

    Missouri's public health system funding structure is diverse and complex, with federal, state and local funding ranging widely based on the county and its organizational structure.

  • E-Learning Module for Students

    University students across Missouri can learn about the current public health system and the urgent need for transformation in this free online e-learning module. Layers of information allow students to dig deeper to understand the complexities of Missouri's public health system structure. The module includes pre- and post-tests, knowledge checks throughout, and a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the module.

    Launch the module

  • E-Learning Module for Public Health Workers and Community Partners

    Seasoned public health workers, new employees, and even community partners will benefit from navigating this free e-learning module. Participants will gain a better understanding of Missouri's complex public health system and the urgent need for the #HealthierMO grassroots initiative. A certificate of completion is available at the end of the course.

    Launch the module

  • Weekly E-Updates

    #HealthierMO Today—12/07/18

    #HealthierMO Today—11/23/18

    #HealthierMO Today—11/09/18


  • Meeting Schedule

    12/18/18 Professional Organizations

    12/20/18 Communications Committee

    Dec TBD Evaluation Team
  • Advisory Council

    The 35-member Advisory Council agreed at its June 14th meeting that the top priority for the initiative moving forward should be to identify a set of foundational public health services that every Missouri resident should be able to access. The Council's recommendation will be reviewed by the Executive Committee at its July meeting and will be used to inform the funding proposal for Phase II of the initiative. The Council was selected April 27, 2018, based on nominations and recommendations from stakeholders across Missouri.

  • Our Partners

    Join a growing group of individuals and organizations who are committed to work together to build a #HealthierMO. View our Partners and Supporters map.

    You can join us! Show your support for the #HealthierMO initiative by requesting that your name or your organization be added.

    Email your name and the city you live or work in to be listed as a Supporter. Email your organization name and business address to have your agency listed as a Partner.

  • Professional Organizations

    For the last several months, representatives from Missouri's professional organizations focused on public health have been meeting in an effort to improve collaboration and establish a process for uniting their voices in advocacy for key public health issues. They continue to explore the best pathway to alignment, and have set ten goals for the next year under their four mission areas.

    Learn more

  • Executive Committee

    The Executive Committee assumed leadership of the initiative from the Steering Committee July 11, 2018. The Executive Committee is made up of representatives from Missouri's state and local public health agencies and statewide professional organizations focused on public health.

Stay Engaged

You can play an active role in helping to transform the public health system in Missouri through the #HealthierMO initiative. Whatever your skill set, expertise, interest or time available, become a part of this grassroots effort to offer every Missouri resident the opportunity for a healthier life as together we build a #HealthierMO.

Find your role

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Connect with us on social media.

Our Staff

Image of Casey Parnell Casey Parnell, MPH, MPA
Project Manager

Casey says her passion for policy and systems-level change led her to get involved with the initiative. She describes herself as an enthusiastic promoter of public health and says the optimistic and innovative nature of this initiative is exciting and inspiring. Parnell shares that her experience working with passionate and tireless public health officials and community volunteers has convinced her that Missouri can be a leader in public health.


Image of Jaci McReynolds Jaci McReynolds, MHA
Communications Coordinator

Jaci says she fell in love with public health when she entered the field in 2002. She has worked with local public health departments across the state, and says passionate staff work tirelessly to provide vital public health services in their communities. She believes the #HealthierMO initiative will empower public health stakeholders to address challenges and make Missouri a healthier place to live.

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