Member Spotlight: Lisa Morris

May 04, 2017|11:36 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Lisa Morris, MSSW, is director of the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services. Morris has over 30 years of experience in behavioral health, elder services, and public health. She joined the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services in 2016.
What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to become a state health official?

I was executive director of a community-based, public health non-profit organization for 11 years. In addition to public health, my background includes community development, behavioral health, and elder adult services. My interest lies in utilizing the framework of collective impact to integrate social determinants of health and health equity into state and local health improvement planning.

Was there someone who influenced you to lead a health department?

Jeffrey Meyers, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Our goals seemed to align, and we both felt that my skills could benefit the work of the New Hampshire Division of Public Health.

What is your morning ritual?

I don’t like to rush, so I take my time in the morning. I take a long shower, drink my coffee, read the newspaper, straighten the house, then I get in the car and listen to NPR!

What do you do to stay healthy?

I eat well and exercise. I love to swim.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

I like the mountains, as well as the lake.

What are your favorite hobbies?

I read murder mysteries. I am also a bird watcher and I enjoy hiking.

How did your career in public health begin?

There are no county or municipal health departments in New Hampshire, aside from those in the two largest cities. The health department in New Hampshire provided funding for the establishment of community-based public health networks and I was hired to start a new public health non-profit organization in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

What do you love most about the public health work you do?

Our influence on health is vast. Through surveillance activities, we understand disease and its impact on communities. We affect disease rates through prevention strategies that are implemented where individuals live, work, go to school, and play. We know that increasing access in some areas and reducing access in others can dramatically change health outcomes. That is so cool!

What do you find most challenging about public health?

How to effectively communicate what we do to other sectors in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals, families, and communities. I believe this lack of understanding can impact our work with other sectors.

What are your primary public health priorities?

One of my main priorities is integrating the social determinants of health and health equity into the work of public health. To do this, we will need to look at multi-sector engagement in the re-development of the state health improvement plan. The plan should reflect health priorities across the state, not just those that focus solely on the work of the public health department. Community health improvement plans should align with the state health improvement plan. We should have a vigorous evaluation and quality improvement plan to ensure that we are holding ourselves and our contractors accountable.

What are three things public health leaders can do to educate and engage the communities they serve?

They can engage in more outreach. They can join, lead, and assist existing groups. They can provide information and support: evidence-based practices, data, and resources. They can become a part of healthcare systems as they move from fee-for-service to value-based payment models. In addition, public health leaders should have multi-sector councils and boards of health that work to influence the community