Initiative Steering Committee

The #HealthierMO initiative began in 2014 with early work by public health leaders in Missouri. It is currently lead by a Steering Committee representing the public health system across the state.

Robert Niezgoda, Missouri Public Health Association (President)
Mr. Niezgoda is the Director of the Taney County Health Department, where he led the agency through accreditation with the Missouri Institute for Community Health and the National Public Health Accreditation Board. He sits on numerous boards focused on public health and has been a guest lecturer at state and local educational institutions.   more

"This initiative is vital to improving the health of all Missourians so that a healthier and stronger foundation can be developed for our communities, schools, and economy. By improving the public health system, Missouri will be more prosperous and a healthier place to live, work and play."

Bert Malone, Missouri Public Health Association (Vice-President)
Mr. Malone recently retired after 41 years of public health service at the federal, state and local levels. He has co-authored a number of public health publications and has served in a variety of voluntary positions in public health organizations, including 25 years on the Missouri Public Health Association Board of Directors.   more

"Missouri's health outcomes are clear indicators of a system in disarray. Now is the time for us to address the challenges facing the system. To paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, 'If not now, when? If not us, who?'"

Jo Anderson, Missouri Public Health Association
With a background in agriculture and hospital program management and administration, Ms. Anderson spent 32 years as director of multiple programs and development projects before retiring from public health. She received the Governor’s Shining Star Award for her efforts in convening stakeholders to develop Missouri consensus guidelines for screening for diabetes.   more

"The health of Missouri's communities is tied to our educational, business and personal health. Public health is in a unique role to convene stakeholders to change the trajectory of health outcomes from a negative to positive direction for our state and local communities. I believe Transforming the Future of Public Health in Missouri can be a force of critical thinking to re-envision public health for Missouri."

Janet Canavese, Missouri Institute of Community Health
With 38 years experience in public health, Ms. Canavese works on accreditation, public health quality improvement activities, and public health practice-based research initiatives. Her primary area of interest is establishing effective practices in public health services by working with academicians and public health professionals to help build the evidence-based science of public health.   more

"Transforming public health has been my mission since moving to Missouri in 1996. My first initiative was working with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on a Robert Wood Johnson/Turning Point Program grant where we published Defining Public Health for Missouri, which was used to make recommendations to the state health director regarding what defines and what should constitute our principal governmental roles and responsibilities for public health. This description of what our new public health system should look like was the basis of the first state-based accreditation program in the nation. Now Missouri has this amazing opportunity to continue our long tradition of gathering public health professionals, academicians, legislators, businesses and people from all over the state to define what public health should look and how it can work better to offer every resident a healthier and happier future."

Linda Cooperstock, Missouri Public Health Association
Ms. Cooperstock spent several years in pediatric infectious disease research at University of Missouri before entering the public health arena. She focused on tobacco prevention and smoke-free policy development, and says she has always enjoyed training and counseling students on the topics of tobacco prevention and cessation.   more

"I've been involved in public health for many years. Positive change in public health is often slow, deliberate, and requires many community sectors. I am moved by the larger partnership net that wants to be involved with transforming public health in Missouri. This is a huge process that will benefit ALL Missourians, and I feel privileged to be involved."

Dennis Diehl, Missouri Institute of Community Health
Mr. Diehl brings more than 35 years of service in public health to his position on the Missouri Public Health Association Board of Directors. He is also the Vice President of the Jefferson County Health Department Board of Trustees.   more

Mr. Diehl quotes Franklin Pierce Adams in regard to the #HealthierMO transformation project, "Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”

Dalen Duitsman, Missouri Institute of Community Health
Dr. Duitsman is Director of the Ozarks Public Health Institute (OPHI) and full Professor in the Master of Public Program (MPH) at Missouri State University, which he developed into a thriving academic program over the past 20 years. His expertise includes the creation of partnerships and coalitions, and he serves on a number of state, regional, and local boards, committees and coalitions.   more

"Missouri has many Public Health initiatives for which we can be proud. Two come immediately to mind. One is the MICA data system (now under MOPHIMS) that makes county level statistics available to LPHAs and all who would like to use it. Few states had a system like MICA when it first came out, and it changed the way we did Public Health in the state. The other is the Missouri Institute of Community Health (MICH). MICH was the first voluntary accreditation process offered for LPHAs in the nation. It served as the model for development of the national PHAB accreditation process. Although we have had some major successes, the Public Health system in Missouri has become overtaxed and is not as effectual as it needs to be. Lack of financial resources and erosion of core infrastructure and support has crippled Missouri’s Public Health system. There is no doubt that Missouri has the capability to be a leader in developing and implementing a Public Health system that is effective in preventing disease, promoting health and protecting the well-being of all Missourians. Please join us in transforming the Public Health system in Missouri. It will take all of us to effect permanent and lasting change that will help ensure all Missourians can be healthy."

Martha Smith, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Ms. Smith currently serves as the Interim Director of the Center for Local Public Health Services at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. She also manages the statewide Maternal Child Health (MCH) Services Program, and she owns a private consulting company that provides services to a range of healthcare service providers.   more

"I have always had a health promotion and disease/injury prevention mindset and was a believer in the principles of public health long before entering the public health workforce. Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring/Caring Science includes the core concepts that caring is inclusive, circular, and expansive, and caring changes self, others, and the culture of groups/environments. The Transforming the Future of Public Health in Missouri initiative gives all stakeholders in the health of Missourians an opportunity to collectively engage in the process of ensuring public health in Missouri is inclusive, circular, and expansive and changes self, others, and the culture of groups/environments for the better. In the words of Helen Keller, 'Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.'"

Susan Thomas, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Ms. Thomas leads and facilitates Performance Management, Quality Improvement and strategic planning initiatives in her current position as the Performance Improvement Manager in the Director’s Office at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).   more

"The Public Health system includes partners from all sectors of government and business and impacts every citizen in Missouri. It’s so important that we work collaboratively to assure the system is running as efficiently and effectively as possible to ensure the best health outcomes for all."

Diane Weber, Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies
Ms. Weber is currently the Executive Director of the Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies. She works with and advocates for local public health agencies across the state on training, education, and resource gaps.    more

"I am totally overwhelmed and inspired by the dedication of the administrators and staff in the local public health agencies (LPHAs) in Missouri. They are often the only health entity in their community and provide much needed public health services to their residents. The LPHAs are an integral partner in an effective and efficient public health system in Missouri."

Audrey Gough, Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies
Ms. Gough has worked in public health for more than 30 years, 23 of those as a local public health agency administrator. She sits on multiple boards, committees and work groups, and says she enjoys watching the image of public health change in her local community.    more