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 fair opportunity to choose a healthier life.

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Graphic that depicts the 2018 updated 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 state general revenue budgeted for 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

  • Public health leaders in Missouri agreed in a 2014 survey 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

Public Health in Missouri

Helping Assure Life Worth Living

Local public health agencies provide unique programs and services focused on needs in their communities. Home health and in-home services in Shannon County enable older people to live longer in their own homes, rather than be placed in nursing homes. Find out the impact of these programs on two local women.

Read the story

Public Health Heartbeat

Public health professionals are the very heartbeat of Missouri's public health system. That heartbeat is strong in a Neosho medical clerk who has been on the job for more than two decades. Samantha Chavez says she's motivated by compassion and a desire to help people feel empowered to help themselves. She recognizes her important role in Missouri's public health system as the first impression for clients and encourages her colleagues around the state to be kind, patient and considerate.

Read Sam's 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

    The Foundational Public Health Services workgroup met for the first time June 26, 2019 to discuss foundational public health services in Missouri. The group is tasked with identifying fundamental public health services that should be available in every community and developing a Foundational Public Health Services Model specific to Missouri. Learn more

    The initiative's Communications Committee is building tools to support Missouri's public health workers. The resources will connect with employees' values and help them use storytelling to explain the reach and value of public health to partners, policymakers and the public.

    A new video offers a succinct overview of the #HealthierMO initiative for stakeholders and partners new to the grassroots effort. The video is featured on #HealthierMO's new YouTube channel.

    Stakeholders reported 218 in kind hours contributed to the initiative during the first quarter of Phase II. This is an approximate value of $8,000 in donated time to transforming Missouri's public health system.

    Follow the #HealthierMO initiative's progress on the Phase II Roadmap.

  • 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.

  • Phase I: E-Learning Module

    Learn about Missouri's complex public health system and the urgent need for transformation in this free online e-learning module. The module includes pre- and post-tests, knowledge checks and a certificate of completion.

    Launch the Student Version

    Launch the Public Health Stakeholders and Partners Version

  • Phase II: E-Learning Module

    This free tool summarizes Phase I successes, introduces goals for Phase II and offers opportunities for active participation in the statewide grassroots initiative to transform Missouri's public health system in order to offer every Missourian the fair opportunity to choose a healthier life.

    Launch the Module

  • #HealthierMO Today

    #HealthierMO Today—August 2019

    #HealthierMO Today—July 2019

    #HealthierMO Today—June 2019


  • Meeting Schedule

    9/03/19 Professional Organizations

    9/17/19 Advocacy Workgroup

    9/17/19 Collaboration Workgroup

    9/19/19 Communications Committee

    9/23/19 Workforce Workgroup
  • Advisory Council

    The 35-member Advisory Council agreed at its June 14, 2018 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 informed the initiative's Phase II funding proposal. The Council was selected April 27, 2018, based on nominations and recommendations from stakeholders across Missouri.

  • Partners and Supporters

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

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

  • Professional Organizations

    Representatives from Missouri's Professional Organizations focused on public health continue to explore the best pathway to alignment and are working hard to achieve 10 goals they set in August 2018 around their four mission areas: advocacy, collaboration, communication and workforce development.

  • Executive Committee

    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. The Executive Committee assumed leadership of the initiative from the Steering Committee on July 11, 2018.

    Executive Committee Meeting Minutes
    March 2019
    November 2018
    October 2018
    September 2018
    July 2018


Take an active role in helping transform Missouri's public health system! Whatever your skills, expertise, interest or time, choose your role. Join the #HealthierMO grassroots initiative. Together we can build a stronger public health system that offers every Missouri resident the opportunity for a healthier life.

Subscribe to our regular email update, #HealthierMO Today, to stay current on initiative progress.

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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